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A herd of nearly 60 elephants, which had entered the reserve forests of Tamil Nadu from Karnataka, has pushed the Forest Department into a delicate situation.
On information, the Department instantly got ready to chase the herd back into the forests. But, this time around, the farmers are advocating restraint as they fear their ragi crop raised in a large area and in a ripe stage will be trampled upon and destroyed by the animals on their way back. So they have pleaded for the postponement of the operation until completion of the harvest.
According to Forest Department sources, every year the elephants used to cross the border from Bannerghatta forest range in Karnataka and camp in the Denkanikottai reserve forests for days together. This year too, the herd arrived at the Denkanikottai reserve forests a few days ago.
The herd criss-crossed the villages of Thimmachathiram, T. Kotthanur, Megalagoundanur, Kavuthalam, Pachanapatti, Bevanatham, Kotahatti, Sinigiripalli, Lakshmipura and Palekuli in the last few days damaging the ragi, paddy, cholam and thuvarai crops. In particular, ragi crop has been raised on about 4,000 acres in these villages and is ready for harvesting.
On complaints from the farmers in this regard, Deepak S. Bilji, District Forest Officer, directed the forest men to rush to the affected villages and chase the elephants away. Two special teams led by N. Arumugam, Forest Range Officer, Denkanikottai, reached Bevanatham and Kotahatti villages on Saturday evening on the lookout for the herd. Despite camping throughout the night, they could not spot the animals, as they were said to have moved deep into the reserve forests.
The residents of these villages too joined the forest men in the chasing operation. They have also set up tree sheds to watch the movement of the elephants.
The forest sources said that they were closely watching the movement of elephants and had taken all effective steps to prevent the animals from entering the human habitations and damage the crops and other properties.
A survey of the damaged crops would be done soon and adequate compensation would be sanctioned to the farmers who suffered crop loss, the sources added.