26-member jumbo herd creates panic near Palamaner

Villagers surging close to the elephants to take selfies making matters worse

June 23, 2021 11:51 pm | Updated 11:51 pm IST - CHITTOOR

A large herd of wild elephants seen in fields near Palamaner, in Chittoor district on Wednesday.

A large herd of wild elephants seen in fields near Palamaner, in Chittoor district on Wednesday.

A forest watcher lost three fingers when a cracker exploded in his hand while he was hurling it at a 26-member herd of wild elephants on Wednesday, when it moved closer to human habitations on the outskirts of Palamaner, towards Gudiyattam in Tamil Nadu, raiding sugarcane and paddy crops.

Divisional Forest Officer (Chittoor West) S. Ravi Shankar said though the Palamaner-Gudiyattam road, which cuts through thick forests, is frequented by wild elephants, their number used to be small and “manageable” by elephant trackers and watchers.

“It is for the first time in recent years that a 26-member herd has appeared on the outskirts of Palamaner, making it tough for the field staff to drive them into the thickets,” he said. The elephant trackers in a bid to tackle the wild herd tried firing crackers. In this process, a cracker exploded in the hand of forest watcher Srihari. The seriously injured worker, with three fingers missing, was rushed to the area hospital.

The DFO said that in spite of the difficulty in tackling larger herds, about 30 field personnel were working round the clock, monitoring the jumbo movements and diverting their attention from foraying into human habitations and farmlands. “Unfortunately, the villagers are adding to the confusion by surging closer to the wild elephants to take selfies, and shouting at them. We have requested the police to control the mob so that it would be easier for us drive them back into the forests. We are on the job of chalking out an effective action plan on Thursday,” Mr Ravi Shankar said.

Forest watchers observed that the presence of new born calves in the big herd was slowing down their movement, and creating bedlam would only worsen the situation. They said that from June to August, the jumbos would be in “musth” and their incursions into fields had to be dealt with strategically.

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