P.S. Suresh Kumar

Nagercoil: The Department of Forests had identified 21 elephants in the district as per the census taken recently, said the District Forest Officer, Mr. Sundara Raju.

Speaking to The Hindu the District Forest Officer said that more than 60 officials were involved in taking census in Western Ghat areas. The census was carried out recently on the basis of eye-witness and the foot prints. During such a survey they recorded eight elephants at Kilaviyaru in Kulasekaram range. They also saw one at Anai Niruthi in Kaliyal range (Kerala border), three elephants at Vannathiparai and four at Adakadu area in Kanyakumari district. Similarly the team noticed five elephants at Azagiyapandipuram range. The District Forest Officer has also appealed to the tribals to preserve the identity of elephants (including dwarf elephants) in the district.

According to sources, the Kani tribals dwelling in the rain forest regions of the Western Ghats claimed that there were two distinct varieties of elephants in the Pechippara forest range (part of Western Ghats), one the common Indian elephant and the other a dwarf variety which they called Kallana .

The existence of a pygmy variety of elephant in India was yet to be scientifically ascertained.

The name Kallana came from the words ‘Kallu’, which means stones or boulders, and ‘Aana’, which means elephant.

The tribals gave the creatures this name because they saw the smaller elephant more often in the higher altitudes where the terrain was rocky.

Some tribes also called the creatures ‘Thumbiaana’, thumbi meaning dragon fly, for the speed with which the elephants ran through trees and rocks when they were disturbed.

Pygmy variety

‘If the claims of Kani tribals are proven, what they have described may be a different pygmy variety of elephant since it is claimed to grow a maximum height of about 1.5 meters (5 feet), does not interbreed with the common Indian elephants, and avoid other elephant species. In appearance, however, they are almost identical to Indian elephants’.

The DFO also pointed out that many excellent wetlands in the district must be preserved and declared as sanctuaries as thousands of resident and migratory birds flock here annually.

The fresh water wetland, including those at Suchindram, Thearoor, Puththeri, Chunkaankadai, Vembanur, Irachchakulam, Kothandaramankulam, Sengulam and Veeraani in the district, should be preserved.

The flora ranges from tropical wet evergreen to tropical dry deciduous and thorn forest at down hills.

Lion tailed macaque, Nigiri langur, Bonnet macaque and common langur, Nilgiri Tahr, sambar, Sloth bear, gour, elephant, tiger, flying squirrel and panther wild dog were some of the wildlife seen in this sanctuary.