Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government constituted an expert committee on August 22 to study the increasing conflict between humans and elephants, especially in the Gudalur area, and to come up with practical solutions to the issue.
The committee headed by Conservator of Forests and Madhumalai Tiger Reserve Field Director, D. Venkatesh has commenced the study on the basic reasons behind the man-elephant conflict.
In May two people lost their lives on successive days. A 40-year-old woman who had gone to attend to nature's call in the early hours was trampled to death by a wild elephant. The woman Malu (42) was killed on May 27,
On May 26, Anandan (51) was killed by a wild elephant when he was going to open his tea stall at Gudalur at around 5.30 a.m.
In August before the committee was constituted, Murugan (46), a forest watcher, was trampled to death by a wild elephant when he had gone to the forest border to relieve himself.
People losing their lives in areas close to the forest borders has been reported regularly in Tamil Nadu with an average of 35 to 40 being killed in a year.
The forest department had to resort to bringing in two Kumki elephants to drive the wild elephant into the deep forest. The expert committee is studying all the possibilities to solve the vexed issue.
While the stories of elephants killing humans have been reported widely, many wild elephants also lost their lives due to human intervention in their habitats.
Three wild elephants were mowed down by the speeding Mangalore- Chennai Express on November 26, 2021. After this incident, the forest department and Southern Railway planned to jointly operate a wireless system to prevent the elephants from reaching the railway lines running through deep forests.
A 20-year-old male elephant was also hit by a moving train prior to this in March 2021; in the past five years eight elephants have been killed by trains. After the mowing down of three elephants on November 26, the forest department of Tamil Nadu and Southern Railways took several measures to discourage elephants from coming near the tracks.
The expert committee is of the view that most of the elephant attacks on human habitations was in search of food. The Kerala forest department has recently taken a policy decision to plant jack fruit trees inside forests as jack fruit is like a magnet to the elephants.
The department also envisages planting wild mango trees and wild gooseberry trees. According to the Kerala forest officials this will help in stopping elephants, monkeys and other wild animals from entering human habitations in search of food.
A recent study by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and the Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation has revealed that the major reason for the human-elephant conflict is the reduced availability of fodder in the forests. The study also revealed the reduction in fodder was mainly due to the presence of invasive plants that shrink the fodder.
However, some senior officials of the Tamil Nadu forest department told IANS that human-elephant conflict has always been there but the increased reporting has led to bringing such issues before society in large numbers.