For elephants, danger lurks in abandoned pits (India)


K. S. SUDHI, The Hindu

Date Published
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At least 60 elephant capture pits found in the three forest ranges of Ernakulam district.
Abandoned elephant capture pits numbering 60, which could still trap pachyderms and other wild animals, have been located in three forest ranges of Ernakulam district.
Most number of pits, around 40, has been identified in Kuttampuzha Forest range and the rest are in Edamalayar and Thundathil ranges. Nearly 30 pits pose immediate threat to the animals. The depth of the remaining others have been reduced over the years, and are less risky to animals, according to an assessment. Each pit would have an average depth of three metres and circumference of six metres.
The counting was carried out on Sunday by a team of forest officials led by K. Vijayanand, Divisional Forest Officer, Malayattoor, following an accident involving two elephants on Friday. A mother and a calf elephant were trapped in a pit in Kuttampuzha Range that day. Though the mother elephant managed to get out, the trapped calf required the assistance from the Forest officials.
Though the Kerala government had officially called off the practice of capturing elephants using pits some three decades ago, large number of pits remains unfilled in the forest trapping unsuspecting wild animals. Besides elephants, gaur, deer and even snakes get entrapped. At least four or five instances of elephants slipping into the pits had been reported annually from the region, pointed out wildlife experts from the district.
According to the animal rescue plan of the department, sides of the pits will be levelled to create an escape route for animals. This will also reduce the depth of the pit and minimise the gravity of the fall. The process will be completed before November, said Mr. Vijayanand.
Incidentally, the Kerala Forest Department had abandoned the animal rescue programme after levelling some pits in the region some two decades ago.
T.M. Manoharan, former Chief of Forest Force, said that the department had levelled some pits in the region during the early nineties. Sides of the pits were levelled and converted into ramps to provide safe passage to animals. Earth was moved into the pit to reduce its depth too, he said.
P.S. Easa, a member of the National Board for Wildlife, said that there could be more pits in Ranni and Konni areas too, which also needs to be levelled. The State Forest department could approach the Project Elephant authorities seeking assistance for protecting the animals and levelling the pits, he said.