KOCHI: The wild-elephant menace has been grabbing headlines in Kerala for the last few months, with tuskers straying into human habitations even in broad daylight.However, the data available with the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change reveal Kerala, boasting the highest number of wild elephants, has less human casualities and other loss resulting from man-elephant conflict. Man-elephant conflicts cost as many as 414, 443 and 423 human lives in the last three years in that order. Among the states, West Bengal, 283, recorded the highest number of human causalities during that time, on an average of around 100 people per year. The elephant population in that state is estimated to be close to 700 as per the 2012 census.
While Kerala has the highest number of wild elephants, 6,177, the human casualities resulting from man-wild elephant conflict was 57, at an average of 20 a year, in the last three years. In fact, three south Indian states, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu hold the country’s largest number of Asian elephants, which is considered to be between 13,000 and 17,000 as per the last census.
After West Bengal, the most number of human causalities were reported in Odisha (189), Jharkhand (161), Chhattisgarh (158) and Assam (154). Wildlife expert and Kerala Forest Research Institute’s former director Dr P S Easa, however, is warning the state against complacency. “Our attitude has to change. We’ve built over 1,500 km solar fence in forest border areas, but hardly 15 per cent of it is properly maintained now. “We should also restrict the encroachment into forest land and stop blocking the elephant passes inside the forest, which will keep them inside their habitations,” he said.