Chennai: The recent travel of a Chennai-based senior forest official to the Mannarkkad forest division and Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad district of Kerala to investigate the death of a pregnant elephant has raised questions on violation of protocol and movement of people from a COVID-19 hotspot to another state.
It was on Friday last that T. Uma, regional deputy director of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, (WCCB), Chennai, and assistant management authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Flora and Fauna, went to Mannarkkad as part of the investigation. She returned to Chennai the next day.
The officials, though none has shown symptoms, have now been living in a scare caused by the surprise visit of Uma.
An official with the forest department told Deccan Chronicle that they were informed about the arrival only the previous day. "Since we had concerns over the spreading of virus, we did not provide our vehicle for the official to move around. It was the district administration which arranged the vehicle despite they knowing she was coming from a COVID-19 hotspot. Many of the officials and local people she interacted with did not know about her travel history. This led to a spread of fear among people after she left the place," said an official.
The official also raised the question about the manner in which the official showed expediency to make a travel to clean zone from a hotspot. ‘It comes at a time when many Keralites who returned home from Chennai have already tested positive for Covid-19 in the state’, the official pointed out.
The official also stressed that the current Covid-19 protocol in Kerala mandated strict quarantine for all people coming from other States, especially hotspots such as Chennai and Mumbai. ‘So it’s a violation of protocol’ official added.
According to the forest department, Uma did interact with Silent Valley National Park Wildlife Warden Samuel Vanlalngheta Pachuau, Mannarkkad Divisional Forest Officer K.K. Sunil Kumar, range officers, forest watchers Flying Squad Divisional Forest Officer, and several local residents.
It may be recalled the spread of Covid cases in Wayanad district last month after a lorry driver who returned from Koyambedu market went on mingling with local people....