From April to November 2010, 21 people have been killed by wild elephants across the State. During the same period, 68 elephants have died, 18 of them unnaturally.
In these districts, jumbos are met with dread. Till not so long ago, sighting an elephant meant a feeling of awe and devotion, but now that image exists no longer. People hesitate to step into their fields even during daytime for fear of being attacked by wild elephants. Villagers claim that agricultural labourers are not ready to work in fields in spite of being offered double their wages. In many villages, farmers who typically keep an all-night vigil in their fields during the harvest reason have stopped doing so owing to the fear of wild elephants raiding fields. People in these districts are on a warpath demanding translocation of elephants or any other viable solution to the problem.
Four elephant reserves come under the Nilgiri Eastern Ghat Range comprising Mysore Elephant Reserve in Karnataka, Nilgiri Elephant Reserve in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Elephant Reserve in Kerala and Rayala Elephant Reserve in Andhra Pradesh. These four ranges have a good number of elephant populations.
Unlike other wild animals, elephants use specific corridors that have been in place for centuries. Any human habitation along the elephant corridor is likely to disturb the jumbos. They move from one area to another in search of foliage and water and come back to their original terrain after some time. A few decades ago, pachyderms did not face too many problems as human activities in forests were not as high as they are now.
Elephants had plenty of foliage and water inside forests to feed on, because of which they hardly ventured into human territory. The last three decades have witnessed a surge of development activities resulting in the submergence of a huge chunk of forests because of construction of big dams. Even elephant corridors vanished under the water. Elephants felt a threat and started to raid villages.
Most farmers too started cultivating fallow land and grew crops such as sugarcane, maize and banana that are like ‘fast food’ for pachyderms. This problem is being witnessed in villages which are situated on the fringes of forests.
Deaths due to elephant attacks
(From April to November, 2010)
*Hunsur Wildlife division-5
Elephant deaths in the same period: 68
Male-20, female-41, calves-7. Out of 68, 37 elephants died a natural death. Other causes for death were: poaching-1, electrocution-6, disease-1, accident-1, gunshot-4 and other reasons-18