On November 21, Swami Vel Thevar, a 70-year-aged farmer, was trampled to dying by a wild elephant at Thalakkulam, around Santanpara, in Munnar. Thevar and his spouse Parvathi were on their way to their cardamom plantation when the elephant, Chakkakomban, attacked them. Thevar died on the place. Parvathy, who had a miraculous escape, has not come to phrases with the reduction of her husband.
Thevar is not the initial man or woman to shed life in an elephant attack in the area. It is believed that 42 people have been killed in wild elephant assaults in the Munnar Wildlife Division, of which Thalakkulam is a component, since 2010.
Protests erupt soon after every single dying, demanding compensation for the victims and rehabilitation of people, but it peters out only to flare up yet again with yet another assault. After Thevar died, individuals blocked the street at Pooppara, which lies 30 km northeast of Munnar, demanding fast payment to his household and measures to mitigate elephant attacks, pursuing which the Forest Division sanctioned ₹5 lakh to his kin.
Devikulam Forest Array Officer PV Vegi states the Chinnakkanal-Anayirankal region is a human-animal conflict hotspot in his jurisdictional area. “The Forest division is seeking its most effective to mitigate it,” he suggests, citing destruction of habitat as a key motive for human-animal conflict.
Root lead to
Elephant attacks are commonplace in Idukki. Two panchayats, Chinnakkanal and Santhanpara, at distances of about 20 to 25 km northeast of Munnar, bear the brunt of most of these assaults. Herds of wild elephants raid the plantations at regular intervals and attack people.
Individuals say elephant-human conflict right here is the immediate fallout of the selection to make it possible for human settlements near the Anayirankal dam by the governing administration headed by AK Antony in the early yrs of the century. The authorities had allotted a single acre each to 301 tribal families in this article, disregarding a report by the then Munnar Divisional Forest Officer.
Areas this kind of as 301 Colony, Sinkundam, 80 Acre, Panthadikkalam, BL Ram, Chinnakkanal, Santanpara, Pooppara, Anayirankal, Suryanelli, and Thalakkulam, underneath Chinnakkanal and Santanpara panchayats, are now dealing with the menace of wild elephant assaults. In accordance to officers, most quantity of fatalities are claimed in these places.
MN Jayachandran, district secretary of the Culture for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, claims the human settlement task is a common example of program implementation without good scientific studies. “The then Munnar Divisional Forest Officer Prakrithi Srivastava had urged the governing administration to desist from enabling settlements in and close to Anayirankal dam regions. But the governing administration overlooked the report and allowed settlements at the 301 Colony, Sinkandam and Chempakathamkudy regions. The settlements came blocking the normal trail of elephants, supplying rise to a conflict involving the two events,” he claims.
The settlements caused some 38 elephants to get trapped in the region. It sets the phase for endless elephant assaults. The vast majority of the tribal families fled the space fearing assaults. Of the 301 households that initially moved to these settlements, only 40 keep on being now.
“The elephant corridor connects Chinnar, Munnar, Pondimala, Mattupetty, Chinnakanal, Sinkundam, Udumbanchola, Adukidantanpara, Chellarkovil Mettu, Mathikettan and finishes at the Periyar Tiger Reserve. But the passage was blocked when the land was fenced by estate proprietors,” suggests a former Devikulam Range Officer, who refused to be discovered.
Farmers also testify to this actuality. Saji Pattarumadam, who life at Chinnakkanal, suggests human-elephant conflict has been on the increase at Chinnakkanal and Anayirankal ever due to the fact 301 people moved to the spot.
“Wild elephants utilized to camp at 301 Colony, Sinkandam and Cement Palam. More than the yrs, the grasslands at Sinkandam and Cement Palam have been reworked into cardamom plantations. Elephants transfer to this region in research of food items. Now wild elephants come near to my home at Chinnakkanal, giving us sleepless nights,” he claims.
In watch of the increase in elephant attacks, the Forest department appointed around 25 watchers at Chinnakkanal and Bodimettu for the security of people today.
The staff commences its function at 5.30 am just about every day and finishes following 10 pm. “They will warn us on the presence of elephants in each individual region by way of WhatsApp teams. This helps inhabitants to be cautious. Moreover, the watchers send the stay locale and photos of wild elephants in every single location,” says a forest formal.
Elephant watcher Manikandan performs from 5 am till midnight. He says the group gives real-time alerts about the presence and motion of wild elephants at Chinnakkanal, Sinkandam, 301 Colony, and Thondimala. The initiative was released soon after the demise of a 60-calendar year-outdated man at Sinkandam, in the vicinity of Anayirankal, in March this year, thanks to the intervention of former Munnar DFO Raju Francis.
In an attempt to restrict the motion of elephants, the Forest Section just lately determined to take care of hanging photo voltaic fences at Chinnakkanal. This was finished dependent on a research carried out by researcher Surendra Varma with the Asian Elephant Analysis and Conservation Middle at Bengaluru on the habits of elephants in the area. The review experienced concluded that elephants were tenting in the place owing to the availability of tasty meals.
Shaktivel, a member of a rapid reaction staff designed to chase away wild elephants from settlements, states a few elephants Chakkakompan, Arikompan and Murivalan are the troublemakers. “My workforce has been adhering to the pachyderms due to the fact 2014. Chakkakompan and Arikompan are the a lot more unsafe tuskers,” he says.
Checking the menace
Santanpara panchayat president Liju Varghese demanded an speedy option to the challenge, which has lingered on for a very long time now. Facts received by way of the Suitable to Info (RTI) Act by Idukki District Congress Committee standard secretary Bijo Mani exhibit that 35 people experienced been killed in wild elephant attacks in the Devikulam Forest Range in the past 10 a long time. “The initiatives to mitigate human-elephant conflict have not been thriving, and most of the cash had been put in without the need of appropriate examine,” he suggests.
Aside from the danger to their lives, folks complain that recurring wild elephant raids have brought about massive destruction of crops. “Poor people today are the worst afflicted by this,” says AT Baiju, a Church of South India missionary working at 301 Colony CSI Church.
In accordance to him, relocation of wild elephants from the 301 Colony area is the only way out to secure people’s lives. A few tuskers are mostly creating concerns to the individuals in this location and they have to be relocated right away.
Elephant professional PS Essa differs, indicating it is the persons who must be relocated, not the elephants. “The difficulty can be fixed only by way of addressing the local people’s worries. What is happening at Chinnakkanal is a fight for survival by the elephants and by the people. The govt really should produce a package deal and relocate the persons from the elephant attack-susceptible regions. The package deal ought to involve far better livelihood to the people today. No conservation activity is possible with out the people’s aid,” he suggests.
Dwindling elephant population
From the wildlife conservation place of view, the elephant quantities are dropping. Forest officers say Chinnakkanal region experienced some 40 elephants in the course of 2004-05, which has fallen to 24 now. They attribute the drop in figures to non-availability of nutritious food, which affects the reproductive potential of elephants. “Mating has develop into uncommon for the reason that of non-availability of nutritious food. This has led to the drop in the selection of elephant calves in the region,” says an official.