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Jumbo tramples woman, 12th death in 10 months

DC | October 24, 2013, 11.10 am IST
The verdict should be a deterrent to all elephant owners in Kerala, which is infamous for perpetrating cruelty towards elephants, according to elephant rights activists.

Coimbatore: In a tragic incident, a 60-year-old “mentally-ill” woman was trampled to death by a lone tusker at Selambanur village in Zakeernaickenpalayam panchayat here on Wednesday. It is the 12th such death caused by rampaging wild elephants in the district since January this year, pointing to an escalating man-animal conflict in forest ranges of Coimbatore.

An adult tusker, around 12 years old, that was on the prowl in the village located in Booluvampatty forest range had caught hold of the destitute woman, Murugammal, who was sleeping on the floor outside a house and killed her. Villagers said that though she had tried to escape the elephant had chased and caught her.

The incident happened around 12.10 am when a forester, three watchers, three guards and about 10 anti-poaching staff were involved in driving the elephant back into the forest. The woman was said to be mentally ill and she would be found staying in the front portion of any house.

The tusker had first thrust its trunk and pulled Velusamy who was sleeping on the cot in the verandah of his house. “Meanwhile, as Murugammal was screaming on sighting the elephant, it left Velusamy and caught hold of her,” said Ramasamy, a villager.

The villagers later staged a protest demanding protection from the rampaging elephants. “They demanded licensed guns to protect themselves from attacking elephants,” said a forest official.

When contacted, District Forest Officer (DFO) M Senthilkumar said, “It is an adult tusker that separated from its herd and is causing disturbances here. We are trying to drive it back to the forest.

The body was recovered and sent to Coimbatore Medical College Hospital for autopsy,” DFO said. The newly appointed District Collector, Archana Patnaik said that she has an action plan to prevent man-animal conflicts.

Next: Elephants on the rampage in foothills

Elephants on the rampage in foothills

B. Ravichandran | DC

Ooty: Man-elephant conflict is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Nilgiris as well as in adjoining Coimbatore district. There have been quite a few recent incidents, including the one at Pandalur in Nilgiris.

While the menace from the straying of wild elephants is a recurring problem, especially in the jungle fringes, green activists are of the view that obstructions in the natural jumbo corridors and unregulated agricultural activities along the borders of the jungle are the major reasons for the escalation.

K.Kalidasan, president, OSAI environmental organisation, said that man-elephant conflicts have been on the rise, especially in Sirumugai, Thadagam and Thondamuthur in Coimbatore district.

The landscape in these areas is such there is a narrow pathway for the jumbos amidst rising hills and quite a few hamlets are located in the foothills and on the fringes of the jungles.  Obstructions in the form of constructions in the natural jumbo corridor in these fringe areas tend to disturb the elephants, which ultimately stray.

Well-grown crops in farms on the jungle borders also tempt the jumbos to stray.  What is needed is digging of elephant proof trenches (EPT) in certain areas to minimise the straying of jumbos as stray jumbos are known to be the cause of conflicts, he added.

S.Jayachandran, joint secretary, Tamilnadu Green Movement, disagrees with the idea of digging trenches. Pointing out frequent incidents of straying of jumbos in the Pandalur belt in Nilgiris and on the Burliar slopes along the Ooty-NH and in Kallar near Mettupalayam, he said that EPT is not a permanent solution to restricting man-elephant conflicts. 

“There are identified jumbo corridors in Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts. The government should take steps to clear all the encroachments in the corridor and try to relocate the jungle hamlets that lie along the corridor.  Once the natural jumbo pathways are left clear, the chances of straying of jumbos would come down, he added.

B.Ramakrishnan, assistant professor of Zoology and wildlife biology, Govt. Arts College, Ooty said that an adult wild jumbo needs nearly 250 kgs of food and 100 to 150 liters of water per day.

The jumbos live in herds and they cannot get these requirements in one habitat, which is why they keep moving along a natural corridor.  

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