The presence of a herd of 25 elephants crisscrossing the red sanders core belt in the Seshachalam hills bordering Kadapa and Chittoor districts has prompted the Tirupati wildlife officials to caution the police and task force personnel operating in the districts against entering the thickets without the guidance of the ground-level staff of the department.
Speaking to The Hindu , Divisional Forest Officer (Tirupati Wildlife Circle) T.V. Subba Reddy said that the herd was active in the red sanders belt from Balapalle range in Kadapa district to Talakona in Chittoor district.
“With mercury levels increasing, the elephants move constantly to the sources of water in the forests. At present, the herd is camping in the Kangi Madugu area in Kadapa forests, where there are a number of ponds brimming with water. This area is also famous for high-grade red sanders trees,” the official said.
The DFO said that the police and task force personnel were seen entering the thick forests without informing the forest officials.
“Without guidance from the ground-level staff it would be highly risky to undertake combing for woodcutters and search for red sanders dumps. In case of any attack by the pachyderms, the police and task force personnel will find it difficult to escape. Our beat officers are well trained in watching the movement of wild elephants and paving escape channels at random. I have already urged the Kadapa police to compulsorily take the support of our beat officers before venturing into the forests,” he added.
The midnight operation of the Kadapa police on March 31 during which they entered the Seshachalam hills and unearthed Rs. 7 crore worth red sanders dump in the Vageti Kona area was undertaken without giving prior intimation to the forest officials, he said.
“As soon as the personnel and their vehicle entered the forests, the CC cameras immediately transmitted the message. As we knew that wild elephants were camping close to the dump, our personnel rushed to the spot to stand by them in case of any emergency,” Mr. Subba Reddy said.
Referring to the movement of the TN woodcutters in the red sanders core belt, the DFO said that their experience with the hilly terrain might have helped them avoid a brush with the elephants.