A wild elephant in musth has literally paralysed the tourism prospects of Athrappilly-Vazhachal-Malakkappara sector, the most popular tourist corridor in the central Kerala.
Kabali, a wild elephant frequenting the stretch, has been creating a nightmare for travellers on the stretch for almost two months now. Vehicles have been chased and attacked by the angry tusker, day and night, forcing authorities to temporarily ban tourist movement on the Vazhachal-Malakkappara route.
According to forest officials, Kabali, otherwise a reasonably calm elephant, is behaving violently as it is in the peak of its musth.
“The elephant, which has been spotted in Parambikkulam, Vazhachal, Sholayar and Malayattur forest areas, never used to behave violently before. It is now at its peak of musth. There is a discharge from its temporal ducts from both sides of its head. The elephant started behaving violently from October. We expect that it will calm down by mid of December. So we requested the Thrissur Collector to impose a ban on tourist vehicles to avoid human-elephant conflict,” said Vazhachal Divisional Forest Officer R. Lakshmi.
“We tried to send the elephant back into the forest many times, but it comes back each time. Two patrolling teams have been deployed in the area to alert about the presence of the elephant . Four tribal watchmen have also been deployed,” she added.
“Many a time, the rude behaviour of motorists create issues,” says Ms. Lakshmi. They often “get very close to the elephant and make it panic with loud horns and flashlight”, she noted.
Kabali was in news recently after the elephant chased a private bus, which conducts services from Chalakudy to Malakappara. The bus had to go in reverse gear for almost an hour to escape from the charging elephant. A few days later, the elephant lifted a KSRTC bus with its tusks. In both the incidents, the passengers had a miraculous escape.
Increasing traffic along the Vazhachal-Malakkappara stretch through the pristine rain forest is to be blamed for the human-elephant conflict, says environmental activist K.H. Amitha Bachan.
“The vehicle flow has increased after renovation of the State highway that connects Chalakudy and Valparai in Tamil Nadu. The vehicles go very fast in the forest road, which has many turns and switchbacks, neglecting the possible presence of wild animals. Many times, the speeding vehicles stop very close to the animals , including elephants, making them feel threatened, ” he said.
According to sources in Vazhachal check post, on an average 700-800 vehicles pass the checkpoint during weekends and holidays.
Mr. Bachan stresses that there should be speed-breakers at regular intervals to check the speed of the vehicles passing through the thick rain forest with abundant wildlife.
“The behaviour of elephants is not static. Over a period, with close human presence, elephants also develop a mechanism of self-defence,” Dr. Bachan added.
The forest department has started an awareness programme for drivers, especially of the buses conducting services though the road, about how to behave when a wild elephant is around.