Gaj Mahotsav turns focus on human-elephant conflict in Kerala

Writer Vinoy Thomas, who has penned many works with elephants as central characters, says he lost his earlier love for the animal at some point in life. As a resident of an upland village in Kannur district, where the man-elephant conflict is a routine affair, Mr. Thomas says he cannot unconditionally love elephants anymore as they have taken the lives of many dear ones.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) founder trustee Vivek Menon says most Malayalis grew up as environmentalists, but the challenge posed by elephants could not be written off.

The Gaj Mahotsav, an initiative of the WTI, along with the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) and E. Somanath Fraternity, has come to Kerala on the occasion of World Elephant Day on Friday. The media conclave held as part of the initiative in Kozhikode on Thursday highlighted concerns about elephant conservation in the regional mainstream media.

“The increasing number of elephant attacks in my neighbourhood made me shed the fascination for elephants. But then, the number of people dying in elephant attacks is miniscule, compared to those dying in road accidents or rather due to COVID-19,” said Mr. Thomas, while inaugurating the conclave.

Mr. Menon, in his keynote address, underlined the root causes of the conflict. As mega herbivores, an elephant herd can finish off a forest very fast and then go in search of more food. If they can move to another forest, and there is an obstacle-less path, they may not wander into human settlements. “We need to ensure that there are links between the sanctuaries,” he said.

“Being a social animal, elephant herds become more aggressive when they lose a member. They have sharp memory, almost close to humans in intellect,” added Mr. Menon.

Several case studies were presented by experts such as M. Ananda Kumar, scientist at Nature Conservation Foundation, Narendra Nath Veluri, CEO of Agency for New and Renewable Energy Research and Technology (ANERT), and Upasana Ganguly, manager and head of the elephant corridors projects of WTI, on effective steps taken for elephant conservation and mitigating the human-elephant conflict in several parts of the country.

N.V.K. Ashraf, senior advisor and chief veterinarian of WTI, and Bonny Thomas, Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation trustee, spoke on the occasion.

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Printable version | Sep 10, 2022 7:21:15 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/gaj-mahotsav-turns-focus-on-human-elephant-conflict-in-kerala/article65761135.ece