Solution evades Gudalur’s elephant-sized troubles

59 died in elephant attacks, 2 killed by tiger in the region since 2015
Image used for representational purpose. (File photo| Express)
Image used for representational purpose. (File photo| Express)

NILGIRIS: Preventing negative interaction between humans and wild animals, especially elephants, is proving to be a huge challenge for forest department officials in Gudalur range. Though political parties have given assurances about addressing the issue in their election manifestos, no party that formed the government has taken steps to implement Section 17 of the Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act over fear of losing its vote bank if squatters are removed.

Only if bottle necks are cleared in Gudalur forest division, which is a connecting point between Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) and Nilambur in Kerala, can easy movement of elephants be facilitated and human-elephant conflict prevented.


Out of three major elephant corridors identified by naturalist ERC Davidar in 1970s, two are occupied by encroachers, and the only path available for elephants is through O-Valley. Apart from human elephant conflict, there have been incidents of tigers and leopards killing humans. According to forest department records, a total of 59 persons died in elephant attacks and two persons died in tiger attack in Gudalur division since 2015.

The highest number of deaths was in 2015-16 when 13 people died due to wild animal attacks. Of this, 12 died due to elephant attack and one due to tiger attack. Ten deaths each were reported in 2016-17, 2018-19 and 2020-21 respectively. This year, six people died in elephant attacks so far.

Conservationists want the state government to remove the migratory paths cleared of encroachments immediately and say capturing and relocating problematic elephants will only be a temporary solution.
“Instead of removing encroachment, which may not be feasible immediately considering the strong opposition from people, the state government should regulate them.

The forest department should identify the crucial elephant movement area and relocate the people to safer locations wherever the animal is not moving. The forest department should also appoint more field level staff to divert the elephants and provide equal salary to the staff who are working in tiger reserves,” said Osai K Kalidasan

Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT) member, N Sadiq Ali, said the government should acquire the 5,000 hectares held by TANTEA and flatten the tea estates to create a smooth passage for elephants. If it is done, forest department will be able to reduce human-animal conflicts by 50 %, he added.

D Venaktesh Conservator of Forests, Nilgiris, and Field Director of MTR said they have been providing vehicles from MTR to Gudalur for engaging workers in driving away elephants. Also revenue officials have been started survey of encroached land under Section 17 in the district.

Number speaks

  • Number of elephants found in Gudalur division - 160
  • Gudalur division spread over 14,500 hectares. However forest patches are very small that led negative interaction
  • 80 % watcher vacancy and 50% of guard vacancy needs to be addressed
  • Unlike tiger reserve, Gudalur is a territorial and gets less funds
  • Gudalur is high conflict zone, there is no proper quarters for the staff
  • Apart from tea, areca nut cultivation is lucrative business as each area fetches `2 lakh to `3 lakh per annum

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The New Indian Express