The reserve forests of Usilampatti now have a new entrant to its habitat, wild elephants, according a recent census by wildlife activists and environmentalists. The elephants, which till recently were never spotted in the Usilampatti region, have now migrated from their usual habitat in Sattur along the western ghats, said B Ramesh of the Netaji Snake Trust, which was a part of the census. He attributed the migration to the abundant resources, especially natural vegetation, in the region.
“The last survey, done in 2010, only included the endemic species like the spotted deer, the great Indian Sambhar and the common langur. However, this year, the 30-member group, including volunteers from the Nature Conservation Club, conducted an in-depth survey last week and found footprints and dung of elephants,” he added.
Ramesh and his team again then camped in the forest to confirm the movement of wild elephants -- said to be a first in the region. A herd of four elephants would have migrated here searching for water and other resources, Ramesh speculated. Interestingly, the team also found pug marks of leopards - another species not common to the Usilampatti reserves.
“Though drought is prevailing in the entire district, the Usilampatti reserves have become dense and coarse, thus attracting a number of species. The entire vast expanse is ideal for the elephants,” Ramesh added. However, it was unclear whether the jumbos have made the Usilampatti forests their home.
“The elephants that were spotted might belong to a single herd as elephants are constantly on the move. So, those found in the Usilampatti reserve would have just migrated and could even leave after spending a week or more,” said elephant expert and veterinarian Dr Kalaivanan. The elephants could have migrated from Theni or from other parts along the western ghats, he added.
The census report has been submitted to the Forest Department in Madurai, which now has to confirm the findings. The census team also requested the Forest Department to place camera traps with heat sensing technology in the reserve forests to further track such data. When contacted, district forest officer A S Marimuthu said that the authorities would soon visit the Usilampatti reserve to confirm the findings.