COIMBATORE: Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) officials have stationed two kumkis – Barani and Suyambu – at Navamalai near Pollachi to chase away the wild elephant that had strayed into the area. Since Forest officials’ effort to divert the jumbo into the Navamalai forest on Saturday night, he had returned only briefly on Monday morning but was soon chased away again.
ATR Deputy Director A S Marimuthu said that they have engaged 30 anti-poaching watchers on a shift basis to keep the elephant from entering the tribal settlement. Four tribal trackers, well-equipped to track wild elephant movement, have also been roped in. The Forest staff have been acting based on the information provided by these trackers, he explained.
Pollachi Forest Range Officer A Kasilingam said that the jumbo was spotted taking shelter under a tree in the forest on Monday afternoon. They will continue to monitor him to prevent him from entering human habitation, he added. Over 40 tribal families have been accommodated at a community hall owned by TANGEDCO to prevent any further incidents.
Tribals’ death not intentional
Though the elephant has been blamed for the death of two tribals, Marimuthu pointed out that both incidents had been unexpected and the elephant had had no intention of killing them. While seven-year-old Ranjani was killed when the jumbo was startled by torch light and tried to make a run for it, K Mahali (55) had -- against instructions from officials -- had been standing outside his house when Forest staff were trying to get the jumbo back into the forest.
In the first case, a fellow tribal had asked Ranjani’s mother to go to another settlement nearby as it had a street light facility and the path to the latter’s did not. However, they proceeded to their house using the torch light on their cell phone, said Marimuthu. “In the second case, while Mahali’s friend, who was also watching the officials chase the jumbo away, took shelter inside an elephant proof trench (EPT) after the staff raised an alarm, Mahali refused to do so and even started throwing stones at the animal,” he explained.
Tribals offer their version
However, the tribals of Navamalai settlement have not taken the two deaths well. They, along with former Valparai MLA M Arumugam, submitted a petition to Collector K Rajamani at the public grievance meeting on Monday, demanding that the animal be driven away. Diverging from the official’s account of the two deaths, Arumugam claimed that the seven-year-old girl was killed when she was on her way home from the bus stop and Mahali when he was asleep outside his house. Besides, the jumbo had damaged many of the tribals’ houses, he added.
Arumugam noted that their demand to chase the elephant away for the past two months has fallen on deaf ears and held the officials responsible for the two deaths.According to him, the Forest department had assured tribals that the unused houses in Navamalai Electricity Employees Quarters would be handed over to them. However, no step has been taken to fulfil this promise. The district administration should immediately take steps to facilitate housing allotment at the quarters for these tribals, he suggested. He also wanted the tusker to be driven away with the help of kumkis.
Kumki’s travel trouble
Kumki Barani, unfortunately, was slightly injured on the forehead during his journey in a lorry from Topslip to Navamalai on Sunday night. There was some tension after his mahout picked up a quarrel with the Forest department’s lorry driver, blaming him for the injury.
Search for ‘Missing’ elephant continues
Coimbatore: A month after Vinayaga, the wild jumbo relocated
to Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in The Nilgiris, managed to shake off its radio collar, officials have still not managed to track him down. Officials have informed Kerala and Karnataka forest departments of the ‘missing’ jumbo but to no avail. Vinayaga not possessing any distinct identification marks has made it difficult to find him, said officials. Vinayaga was moved to MTR from Coimbatore forest on January 23. It was on April 30 that officials found that the elephant managed to shake off the collar.