Elephant attack sparks ire (Kannur, India)


The Hindu

Date Published

Incidents of man-wild conflict in parts of the district bordering forest areas here have triggered protests by local people.

The killing of P. Gopalan, an Adivasi who was part of a team of fire watchers, by a wild elephant near the Kottiyur Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) on February 2 was the latest incident that incited local people to protest against Forest officials. Irate people blockaded Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sunil Pameedi near Kottiyur on February 3 raising their demands, which included proper maintenance of solar fencing along the boundaries of the WLS and hike in compensation for the victim’s family.

“Wild elephants enter through the damaged portions of fence,” said Mr. Pameedi. Though elephants used to destroy swathes of crop area in the past, the problem had subsided once the fencing was erected, he told The Hindu . The fencing was damaged in some portions by the elephants themselves, he said.

Compensation promised

The Forest Department restored the solar fencing along damaged stretches on Friday and promised the residents that their demand for a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the family of the victim would be taken up with the government. The government has already announced a solatium of Rs. 5 lakh to the family.

‘Same animal’

Sunny Mechery, district panchayat member representing the Peravur division, which includes Kottiyur and nearby Kelakam panchayats, said local residents believed on the basis of eyewitness reports that the elephant that killed Gopalan was the same one that trampled to death 45-year-old Biju near Kelakam on January 10.

The residents wanted the Forest officials to tranquilise the animal and transport it to elephant camps or inner forests, he said.

Forest officials, however, were not sure whether the same animal was involved in both the incidents. The DFO said the rapid response team tasked with warding off wild elephants and other wild animals had been deployed in the area.

Sources in the Kottiyur WLS said Gopalan was killed inside the forest area.

“It was not a case of the elephant straying into the settled areas,” an official said. The men were within 10 metres from the elephant, he said, adding that normally a wild elephant feels threatened if it finds men within such a short distance.