The three-member herd of wild elephants, called “bachelors’ group” in forest department parlance, which entered Chittoor district near Vellore in Tamil Nadu a fortnight ago, is now on the prowl in the hilly terrain of Karvetinagaram range.
As the group moved into the interior, nearly 70 km away from its entry point, tense situation prevailed in villages in Karvetinagram and Puttur ranges, as jumbo presence is unheard of in the region so far.
The three tuskers emerging from the Tamil Nadu forests crossed Gudiyattam (Tamil Nadu), Yadamarri, Gudipala, Chittoor and S.R. Puram mandals, before entering the Karvetinagaram range, which holds very thin vegetation, considered unsuited for wild elephants.
Interestingly, except for foraying into the fields occasionally, the group is confining itself mostly to hillocks. Having advanced into the densely populated areas with denuded jungle cover, the herd is moving forward, without showing any sign of making a retreat into its habitation.
Divisional Forest Officer (Chittoor East Wildlife) G.G. Narentheran, who is monitoring the situation with about 25 forest watchers, told The Hindu that the situation required more caution. “It’s not that easy to drive the herd back into its habitation after it strayed several kilometres. Our men are cautiously handling the situtation. Fortunately, due to heavy rains since six months, there is a lot of grass and considerable fodder in the forests. The herd is able to sustain on them, not creating much trouble for the farmers,” he said.
Referring to the options of capturing the animals if the situation went out of control, the DFO said that such an action required the permission from the Central authorities. “Even if we want to go for a ‘kumki’ operation (by trained elephants) to drive the herd into the thickets, it does not sound workable as its habitation is at least 40 km away. On the positive side, the Bachelor’s Group’s (an adult male member leading juvenile animal) is not menacing like regular herds or lone elephants. We are sure to handle the issue smoothly,” Mr. Narentheran said.
Forest personnel at Karvetinagaram said the three-member group is currently camping close to Ammapalle hamlet near Krishnapuram reservoir.
“We are taking all precautionary measures to stop the herd’s movement towards Puttur range, a plain area. Similarly, a vigil is mounted on the Vedurukuppam road. We have widely arranged tom-tom urging people in the vulnerable areas not to wear white clothes and move close to the animals. As the farmers here are not used to the presence of jumbos, we have instructed them to avoid night vigils till the crisis is over,” G. Sivanna, Forest Range Officer, said.