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Conduct study on wild jumbos becoming strays: Activists

They also urge the State government to find out whether elephants come out from forests due to shortage of food and water or due to poaching and behavioural changes.

Conduct study on wild jumbos becoming strays: Activists

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CHENNAI: As the 35-year-old pachyderm Arikomban (meaning rice-eater in Malayalam), said to be fond of eating rice, had occupied the spotlight for over a week for its raids in Cumbum, Theni district, environmentalists and animal activists demand a detailed study on the reason for wild elephants are straying into human habitat causing man-animal conflicts.

They also urge the State government to find out whether elephants come out from forests due to shortage of food and water or due to poaching and behavioural changes.

Retired veterinarian of the State Forest Department NS Manoharan, who is also an expert in capturing wild elephants from residential areas, said, “Though there are many elephants in the forests, only a few come out to residential areas. There may be various reasons for one elephant to come out and others to stay inside. A detailed analysis should be done to ascertain the reasons.”

Manoharan added that the forest department had shifted Arikomban to an ideal habitat with sufficient food and water. “Since elephants are social animals, Arikomban will mingle with other elephants in its new habitat. The southwest monsoon is setting in, which is a positive sign. Rainfall will bring more food and water, and this would encourage the elephant to stay in the jungle,” he stated.

After days of operation, the forest department captured Arikomban and shifted it to dense forests of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR). Originally from Kerala, Arikomban was captured by the forest department of Kerala and shifted to Periyar Tiger Reserve. But he came to Cumbum. In January, another elephant named Karuppan was captured by the Tamil Nadu forest department.

Environmentalist Osai Kalidas of Osai Trust said that there were bottlenecks on elephant corridors like Kallar Elephant Corridor. “If such bottlenecks are not corrected, elephants would keep straying into residential areas. Also, there should be clarity on where the elephants can and cannot be stopped. If their movements are stopped in their usual corridor, they tend to stray,” he opined. “A detailed study in this regard should be done. Carrying capacity of forests should be analysed and waterbodies should be created at necessary water holes.”

Explaining the reasons for straying, Kalidas said that some elephants raiding crops or eating rice tend to return as they might believe crops are an easier food source. Another reason could be the non-availability of quality forests as invasive species have occupied grazing grounds.

“The forest department gets less share in budgets but the number of employees remain the same for the past 50 years. However, problems have grown multi-fold as the staff have to drive away rogue wild animals, prevent poaching, control forest fires among others,” he noted.

Environmentalist Mac Mohan opined that long-term studies should be conducted to find out reasons on wild elephants straying. “It should be studied whether animals come out due to lack of food, or fear of poaching,” he said. “To avoid man-animal conflict, private land on elephant corridors should be acquired by providing a reasonable price.”

Why all rogue elephants are male

CHENNAI: “Elephant herds are usually led by the oldest females in the herd. Soon after the male elephants in the herd attain 13 or 14 years of age, they will be driven out of the herd. There is no permanent herd for male elephants,” Osai Kalidas explained. During the mating season, the ousted young males search for females and tend to join new herds.

They again leave the new herd and search for another herd. During this period, they may travel alone and tend to enter human settlements. “Home range for each herd is around 500 sq km. But male elephants require more space and face challenges while entering new territories,” he added. Also, continuous forest in the State is rare and human settlements are located close to forest areas. This encourages some lone tuskers to raid crops.

Rudhran Baraasu
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