Against capturing Arikomban, Kerala High Court asks panel to give options

This, said the court, should be done if the tusker poses a threat to the personnel.

Published: 30th March 2023 06:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th March 2023 06:23 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala High Court. (File photo)

Kerala High Court. (File photo)

By Express News Service

KOCHI:  The Kerala High Court on Wednesday constituted a five-member committee of experts to advise the court on options other than capturing tusker Arikomban to prevent the jumbo from causing disturbance to human settlements. The committee, which has to submit a report by April 5, has also been tasked with suggesting long-term measures to mitigate human-elephant conflicts.

The five-member committee comprises Arun R S, chief conservator of forests (high range circle), Kottayam, Pramod H, chief conservator of forests and field director (Project Tiger), Kottayam, N V K Ashraf , chief veterinarian and vice-president, Wildlife Trust of India, P S Easa, chairman of Care Earth Trust, Chennai, and former director of Kerala Forest Research Institute, and Ramesh Babu, amicus curiae appointed by the court who shall function as convener.

Meanwhile, the court allowed the forest department personnel deployed in areas frequented by Arikomban to tranquillise the elephant and fit it with a radio collar for tracking its movements till the committee files its report on April 5. This, said the court, should be done if the tusker poses a threat to the personnel.

“The committee should consider the data available with the forest department on the habits of Arikomban. This should be done to advise the court whether there are options, other than capturing Arikomban, that can be explored to prevent it from causing disturbances in human settlements,” said the court.

‘Capture will run counter to duty to protect wildlife’

Hearing a petition against the department’s decision to capture the elephant, the division bench comprising Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Gopinath P sought to know the steps taken to protect people of the locality. The government said a huge contingent of forest department personnel was deployed to keep watch in areas the elephant is known to frequent, and kumki elephants have also been deployed. The court said the deployment of personnel and kumki jumbos should continue.

Meanwhile, it said the expert committee should keep in mind that the ultimate objective is to strike a balance between conflicting interests of residents and the jumbo.

“The elephant, currently in musth, is roaming in the company of his herd comprising females and calves. Bid to capture it will be dangerous to the forest department personnel and the animal. The court requires data to explore options to prevent it from straying into human settlements, and can rely on experts’ opinions while issuing directives in the matter,” the bench observed.

The court said the balance of convenience would lie in protecting the interests of the wild jumbo against capture and life in captivity. The court said it had come across instances of cruelty to captive elephants in Kerala and seen the deplorable state in which jumbos are held captive in the state. Adding another wild elephant to that list of hapless ‘converts’ would run counter to our fundamental duty to protect wildlife and have compassion for living creatures.

Several persons, including Chinnakanal and Santhanpara panchayat officials and MPs, impleaded themselves in the proceedings. They raised concerns on the safety of people in areas where Arikomban forages for food. The court said though instances of property damage caused by the wild elephant have been cited, it is apparent it has not harmed human life in recent past. Its forays into human settlements for food have, however, resulted in a tense atmosphere, said the court.


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