Andhra Pradesh: Man-animal conflict turns into a vexed issue in Chittoor

Farmer trampled to death by wild elephant herd

Updated - April 01, 2022 07:11 pm IST

Published - April 01, 2022 07:10 pm IST - CHITTOOR

A herd of wild elephants on prowl in eastern mandals of Chittoor district.

A herd of wild elephants on prowl in eastern mandals of Chittoor district. | Photo Credit:

Despite repeated appeals of the forest department officials to farmers to coexist with wild elephants, the man-animal conflict is only worsening year after year, with a growing number of casualties in Chittoor district. On Thursday, a 38-year-old farmer was trampled to death by a herd of wild elephants at a remote village in Sadum mandal.

In the last two years, the foray of wild elephants from the Koundinya wildlife sanctuary, at Palamaner and Kuppam ranges sandwiched by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka ,has become a regular phenomenon.

Till 2020, the movement of the pachyderms used to be limited to a small radius, not going beyond Punganur or Ramasamudram mandals on the western side. Believed to be due to lack of fodder in the reserve forests and the Koundinya sanctuary, the wild elephants started straying far away from their habitats from 2021.

Their movement towards the plain areas, about 200 km away from the Tamil Nadu forests, has thrown the farmers into a state of consternation. In 2021, a bachelors’ group of jumbos from Tamil Nadu strayed into Chittoor district and travelled as far as Pitchatur, 150 km away. After lingering for nearly five months, one elephant was electrocuted, while two retreated after efforts by the forest personnel.

In March, this year, another three-member herd entered Chittoor and traveled up to Srikalahasti, where the presence of a wild elephant is quite rare. Their presence continues to worry the farmers in the paddy and sugarcane belt in the eastern mandals.

No scientific way

Some of the retired forest officials deplored that though the Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary was carved out over 20 years ago, there has not been a “scientific way of tackling the jumbos movement” at the tri-State junction. Instead of posting officials with advanced training in dealing with wild herds of elephants, the divisions in the Chittoor district are manned by regular officers, bereft of knowledge about dealing with emergencies in wildlife management.

“They neither have the expertise to deal with wild elephants on their frenzied jaunts towards agriculture fields nor would they involve wildlife experts to manage the crisis,” a former official said.

Solar fencing

Farmers in Palamaner and Kuppam ranges lament that though the forest officials had several times claimed that solar fencing and trenches were arranged along the forest fringe areas to prevent the jumbos from raiding crops, it had never really worked.

The residents of hamlets vulnerable to wild elephants’ frenzy express serious doubts about the efficacy, quality, and truth in erecting the deterrents against the jumbos. For tackling a whopping population of more than 70 wild elephants, the number of forest watchers and elephant trackers is said to be less than 25.

It is observed that due to lack of funds, the forest officials are not in a position to address this man-animal conflict, despite jumbo casualties due to electrocution reaching 16 since 2010, besides several human casualties.

Meanwhile, the sighting of a leopard at a forested village in Somala mandal on Thursday led to flutter among the residents. The villagers near Puthalapattu mandal headquarters could save two spotted deer in a week from stray dogs after they strayed into human habitations. The death of several peacocks in February on the western side is believed to be a clear indication of dwindling water sources in the forests.

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