Videos of a herd of elephants moving with difficulty through a tributary of River Kousika in the Thadagam Valley on Tuesday, which circulated on social media, have highlighted the state of various streams that pachyderms traditionally used for transits and water.
Shot by villagers, the video showed five elephants, including a calf, struggling to find their way to forest through Thannasi Odai (stream). Such incidents are recurring according to the villagers.
Nature enthusiasts from the region say that several streams, including Sanganoor Pallam and Thannasi Odai, have been damaged due to human activities.
R. Shanthala, an 18-year-old nature enthusiast from Kanuvai, has documented the movement of the herd to highlight the plight of streams. According to her, the elephants use these streams as transit paths to move from Thadagam Valley to Boluvampatty Valley.
However, the connectivity was disrupted due to mining activity on the upper sides of the Valley (towards Mangarai), said Ms. Shanthala who has been documenting human-elephant interactions in the Valley and effects of land use changes.
Activist S. Ganesh from Chinna Thadagam pointed out that around 87 small and three large streams in the Valley have been damaged due to illegal mining.
“Around 40 elephants are roaming in Thadagam Valley as they are unable to move freely to other forests,” he said.
“Stream beds with growth of vegetation on sides are among places that wild elephants prefer to stay during summer mid-days to avoid exposure to sunlight. They search for subsoil water and take mud baths to cool their bodies due to poor presence of sweat glands,” said B. Ramakrishnan, Assistant Professor at the department of wildlife biology in the Government Arts College, Udhagamandalam. The pits dug by elephants on streams for water also benefit other creatures.
P.K. Selvaraj of Athikadavu Kousika River Development Association, wanted the State government to formulate appropriate policies to protect river systems and ensure water resources for wild animals in forests itself.
“Animals like deer have colonised in places that are as far as 40 km off reserve forests by traversing through the beds of streams and rivers. Lack of water and fodder could be among reasons which experts should identify,” he said.
Revenue Department sources said that the land use changes in places like Thadagam Valley and Boluvampatti Valley have come to their attention. Cases related to illegal mining in the Valley were pending before the High Court and the National Green Tribunal. Steps will be taken to prevent further damages to streams, they said.