Andhra Pradesh

Jumbo fear grips villages in Chittoor

Puthalapattu MLA M.S. Babu, local leaders and officials listening to the experience of a woman whose hut was pulled down by elephants at a hamlet in Chittoor district.

Puthalapattu MLA M.S. Babu, local leaders and officials listening to the experience of a woman whose hut was pulled down by elephants at a hamlet in Chittoor district.  

Movement of wild elephants becomes common in mandals under Koundinya sanctuary

Several villages, which lay scattered close to the hillocks in the western belt of Chittoor district, from Palamaner to Somala, are caught in the grip of fear, expecting crop-raiding wild elephants to strike their habitations at anytime.

The incident of a herd of wild elephants pulling down a hut at a forested hamlet, Company (name of hamlet), at Tavanampalle mandal a few days ago was enough to send waves of panic among the rural side.

The movement of wild elephants in the agriculture fields and close to human habitations becomes a common phenomenon in about two dozen villages under Palamaner, V. Kota, Bangarupalem and Baireddipalle, Kuppam and Ramakuppam mandals situated under the Koundinya wildlife sanctuary, which also borders with neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The man-animal conflict in this belt saw the death of over a dozen elephants and nearly twenty human beings in the last two decades.

In mid May this year, a small herd of wild elephants broke away from the main herd at the Koundinya in Palamaner range, and marched as far as Pakala, 70 km away, crisscrossing a number of forest beats and moving close to human habitations.

Kumkies deployed

After a fortnight, when the Forest Department was about to deploy kumkies (trained elephants) to drive them back into the sanctuary, the pachyderms could make a retreat voluntarily, but not before bringing loss to farmers.

In June, a three-member elephant herd left the sanctuary and kept roaming the hillocks of the surrounding Punganur and Madanapalle forest ranges, raiding crops at nearby fields at night and retreating into valleys and thickets in the morning, giving sleepless nights to farmers.

Their rampage continued for about a month, before they make a comeback to their Koundinya residence.

In the third week of July, a ten-member herd left the Koundinya and made their silent march to as far as Somala mandal, which is located very close to the Seshachalam hills at the eastern side of Chittoor district. The elephants continued their crop raids in several villages, even creating confusion among the forest officials, whether the herd was from the western Koundinya sanctuary or its eastern counterpart Seshachalam hills.

The officials after a fortnight long effort could bring back the herd close to the Koundinya, while some animals are said to be still reluctant to complete their escapade.

Fresh attack

The recent episode last week saw a fresh attack by a herd of about three elephants on a thatched hut erected at the forest fringe at Company at Madhavaram village of Tavanampalle mandal, the stretch which naturally connects Bangarupalem with Aragonda and Somala areas. The midnight attack by tuskers resulted in the providential escape to the inmates, including a woman.

Divisional Forest Officer (Chittoor West) Sunil Kumar Reddy speaking to The Hindu has confirmed that the hut at Company hamlet has been pulled down by a herd of wild elephants.

The inmates of the hut erected at the forest fringes are working temporarily for a government scheme.

“After pulling down the structure, the herd had left towards the village proper and uprooted some palm trees. We are seriously looking into the problem and solve the man-animal conflict in the region,” he says.

Meanwhile, MLA M.S. Babu and others visited Company hamlet on Wednesday and assured those who had lost their hut and those farmers whose crops were damaged of compensation.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 11:52:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/jumbo-fear-grips-villages-in-chittoor/article29103631.ece

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