A kumki called Kaleem and its ‘wild’ task

Officials will soon use it to chase away rogue elephant

July 31, 2018 12:06 pm | Updated 12:06 pm IST - CHENNAI/THENI

 ‘Kumki’ Kaleem during the search for a lone wild elephant, which has killed many people, in the forest area near Thevaram in Theni district on Monday.

‘Kumki’ Kaleem during the search for a lone wild elephant, which has killed many people, in the forest area near Thevaram in Theni district on Monday.

Kaleem, the celebrity kumki elephant, has begun its latest journey to tame a wild jumbo that is raiding the agricultural fields abutting the Thevaram reserve forest in Theni district.

With over 60 successful operations, Kaleem, the go-to kumki elephant of the State forest department to tame the wild elephants, will be joined in the task by another kumki, most likely Mariappan from the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR).

The kumkis are being engaged to drive the wild elephant that has also killed one person last month. The forest officials tried to drive it away but it continued to return.

“People are used to elephants in these parts. Now, they are panicking as the wild elephant’s activity is quite unusual,” says S. Gowtham, District Forest Officer, Theni. A 15-member team was formed to study the behavioural patterns of the wild elephant.

According to forest personnel in the Uthamapalayam range within which the reserve forest falls, the whole landscape is fragmented with forest patches, estates and farm fields. Whenever the elephants, six migrants as per the last census, cross from one hill to another, they invariably damage the crops.

With Kerala as the upper boundary, the elephants are driven back to Tamil Nadu. “There is not much of forest in the upper boundary where the landscape is mostly cardamom estates. As the financial loss will be huge, the elephants are always driven back as early as possible,” said an official.

To identify the possible forests the rogue elephant can be driven into safely, five expert trackers from the ATR have been engaged for the past few days.

A fine specimen

On Monday, the 55-year-old Kaleem arrived at the Thevaram foothills and got acclimatised to the new ghats. Captured in the early 1970s from the Sathyamangalam forest as a seven-year old, Kaleem is considered to be one of the finest specimens of the Asian elephant. It will be assisted by another elephant that is expected to land on Tuesday. “After a few days of acclimatisation, the two kumkis will begin work,” says Mr. Gowtham.

While the locals believe that the wild elephant waiting to be captured has killed nine persons in the last eight years, the DFO says only four persons have been trampled to death by elephants in these reserve forests since 2011. And not all have been killed by the same elephant, he notes. And according to the last census, there are six migrant elephants in the reserve forest.

(With inputs from G. Karthikeyan)

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