Approach man-animal conflict scientifically: Wildlife experts

Man-animal conflicts are on the rise in Coimbatore and the impact of the drought last year resulted in a heavy shortfall in fodder and water availability in forests. This has made things worse this year. The man-elephant conflict on the outskirts of the city and the forests in Coimbatore was mostly confined to crop damage, one or two deaths of humans and jumbos once in a while.
Representative Image
Representative Image

Coimbatore

So far, this year 10 persons have been killed by wild elephants. Similarly, jumbos have also died due to electrocution, starvation and other issues. While these were serious issues neither the forest department nor public dreamt that the issue would go so far as to claim a few lives of people in the city, on Friday last. 
Following the death of four people including a girl, two aged women and an aged man, the Forest Department, District Administration, wildlife experts and the public have started looking into the issue of man-elephant conflict in this region with a different perspective. 
They have pressed for the need for scientific monitoring of elephants that would help the forest department and the line departments who could stay abreast on an elephant or herd entering human habitations.
“We are trying to work on it as the sub adult male that killed four persons on Friday and left twice the number of persons injured over a span of four days kept returning to the forest as our personnel chased them. Our teams were monitoring it till 2 a.m. on Friday and lost track of it at that time, after which it 
managed to come close to 13 kilometres into the city, attacking and killing people,” a senior forest officer said. 
This is not the first time a wild jumbo has entered the city and killed people. In 2009, a forest guard was killed by an elephant that managed to walk close to the same place where the jumbo was captured on Friday. 
While public blame the inefficiency of the forest department, wildlife conservationist K Mohan alias Mac Mohan strongly felt that there are practical difficulties in tracking an elephant as it can walk through a canal or an abandoned valley or barren land, while the forest personnel primarily depend on the road. 
While radio collaring is still seen as the best mode of monitoring elephants, the possibility of GPS monitoring of elephant movement by fitting microchips into them should be tried as it would be cost effective and convenient.
Teams to monitor freed jumbo for two weeks
Two teams are monitoring the rogue tusker that was relocated and freed near Varakaliyar close to Topslip on Friday night after it went on a rampage killing four persons in the city.  
The forest department released it in the wild at Yaanaikunji Kundru between Kozhikamudhi and Varakaliyar in the thick forest in Anamalai Tiger Reserve. It waited close to the vehicle for a few minutes and walked into the forest. District Forest Officer (DFO) of Pollachi Forest Division V Subbaiah said that in all 20 field staff were taking turns at 10 persons per shift to monitor the elephant. “It is inside the forest and getting accustomed to the new environment. The teams will monitor its overall movement. Focus will be to check if it was straying into the nearby tribal settlements (Kozhikamudhi and Koomati),” he said. Forest department sources said that the place where it has been released is along the Kerala border and home to close to 100 wild elephants. The animal that was covering a vast distance every day due to shortage of fodder and water was moving at the new forest at a very slow pace, as it has adequate food available to it.

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