A member of an elephant monitoring team was trampled to death by a herd of wild elephants at Panniyar, near Poopara, Munnar, on Wednesday. The deceased was Shakthivel, 51, of Kozhippanakkudy at Chinnakkanal.
According to Forest department officials, Shakthivel was attacked by the herd as he was trying to chase away the elephants at a tea estate around 6.30 a.m.
The officials said Shakthivel was one of the eight members of the monitoring team under the Chinnakkanal forest section office deputed to chase away wild elephants entering human habitations. On Wednesday morning, Shakthivel and his team noticed the presence of a herd at Panniyar. He then reached the spot around 6 a.m. to chase away the elephants. However, he failed to answer the phone after 6.30 a.m. He was later found dead inside the tea plantation around 11.45 a.m.
A forest official said it was suspected that he was attacked by the herd. “A herd of eight elephants, including two calves, were reported roaming in the region on Tuesday evening,“ said the official.
A joint action council later staged a road blockade on the national highway at Thondimala and demanded steps to prevent man-animal conflicts under the Devikulam range.
Meanwhile, Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran said the government would provide ₹15 lakh as compensation to the kin of the deceased.
The Minister said the Forest department would install hanging solar fences in the Chinnakkanal area to prevent man-animal conflicts. “A sum of ₹1.94 crore has been sought from the Centre under a project. The money will be used for installing solar fencing, a check-post and strengthening the rapid response team (RRT),” he said.
In December last year, an eight-member watchers’ team that included Shakthivel, was chosen for the Wildlife Trust of India award for its contribution towards mitigating man-animal conflicts and ensuring the protection of the elephants in the region.