Western Tamil Nadu's rendezvous with elephants, sloth bears and bisons has been dangerous and even dramatic leaving people on tenterhooks.
One such case was that of a wild elephant fondly named Chinnathambi by locals. Chinnathambi had been found trampling on crops and causing damage for the last one year. In the last week of January, Chinnathambi was captured by the forest department and released into Annamalai forest range near Top Slip. But very soon, the jumbo was back in villages near Pollachi and began roaming in the area.
Chinnathambi became the talk of the town and when a state minister said they had no option but to capture him and tame him to be used as kumki, people staged protests against domesticating the jumbo.
With animal activists also voicing their opinion, the matter reached the court. The Madras high court passed an interim order directing the TN government to capture the wild elephant. It, however, directed the government not to torture or hurt the animal in any manner. Amid high drama, Chinnathambi was finally captured at Kannadipudur near Udumalpet and put in a kraal at Varagaliar elephant camp near Top Slip. For almost a month, Chinnathambi grabbed the attention of people and hogged the limelight on TV and social media.
Chinnathambi story may have had a dramatic climax without loss of lives, but it has not been so in human-animal conflicts in the hills.
This week, a sloth bear which strayed into the central part of Ooty town brought life to near standstill. It was captured after a 10-hour struggle as the hills lacked veterinary expertise in dealing with such wild animals. And this was one among the rising cases of sloth bear movement in the area. Similarly, there has also been instances of bison attacking residents and tourists in Ooty and Coonoor. Several lives have been lost in attacks by elephants, sloth bears and bisons.
Residents say the surge in the movement of wild animals in residential areas has turned out to be a nightmare for them.
With the line dividing man-animal borders blurring amid rapid urbanisation, such cases will continue to rise leaving people hold their breath with anxiety. Unless we realize animals have as much right to live as human beings and look for sensible and feasible solutions, the conflict will never end....