Obstruction-free march for jumbos along Nilgiris

Obstruction-free march for jumbos along Nilgiris

Jumbos at the Nilgiris Elephant Corridor. DH Photo

Jumbos with their calves can now enjoy free migration march along the critical Sigur Elephant Corridor in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the Nilgiris without much obstruction.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ordering sealing of 27 luxury resorts that mushroomed along the route that the pachyderms used to move freely and enjoy their freedom inside the pristine reserve forests.

The lock and seal of the high-end luxury resorts, frequented by foreigners and those from neighbouring states, including Karnataka, for their picturesque landscape was completed on Sunday by the Nilgiris district administration.

Animal rights and environmental activists told DH that the Supreme Court order was the first step in ensuring prevention of urbanisation in reserve forest area as well as elephant corridors in the Nilgiris.

They also termed the verdict a big step towards preserving the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, which has seen much deterioration due to illegal constructions.

"This is a welcome step. But we expect the Supreme Court to order razing down of all structures in the elephant corridor since that would be the only long-term solution to ensure that the jumbos enjoy free movement in their forte," advocate 'Elephant' G Rajendran, one of the petitioners in the case in the apex court, told DH.

He said construction of resorts and buildings along the MTR in the Nilgiris and adjacent Bandipur in Karnataka was a cause of serious concern since elephants move from the silent valley in Kerala to Bandipur via Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu during the southwest monsoon.

"More than 15,000 elephants walk their way to Bandipur and they follow the same route while returning to Silent Valley during the North West monsoon season. We can see hundreds of elephants at one place in MTR in the evenings," Rajendran said.

The resorts and other buildings had not just obstructed the movement of elephant and other wild animals, but also led to conflict between animals and humans.

The activists recalled incidents of tourists being trampled to death by elephants in the locations where the concrete structures have come up.

K Mohanraj, an environmentalist fighting for the cause, said the sealing of luxury resorts would certainly ease biotic pressure on wildlife population and reduce the human-wildlife conflicts.

"Tourism activities were putting undue pressure on animals in the corridor. Now that the resorts are closed, and recreational activities will reduce, animals can now have a free run in the forests," he told DH.

Mohanraj also stressed on the need to preserve ecological features in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve since it is a home to highest number of Asian elephants and tigers.

"Cluster of resorts, clubhouses and farmlands had affected the forest topography and unchecked urbanisation in the deep forests is a threat to wildlife. We expect the Supreme Court to order demolition of resorts since just sealing would have no use. If concrete structures are demolished, the greenery will bounce back and there will be no obstruction for the wild animals," Mohanraj added.

However, the sealing has left the locals, who have been dependent on the resorts to eke out a living, fuming.

Cab drivers in the area have been on strike for the past few days protesting sealing of the resorts.



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