Living on the edge with raiding jumbos (India)


Times of India

Date Published
MALAPPURAM: Hundreds of local residents in villages bordering the forest at Nilambur have been spending sleepless nights for weeks, as wild elephants have strayed into human habitations in Pothukallu and Edakkara regions, mainly in search of jackfruit.
Electric fencing and compound walls have proved ineffective in stopping the herd which has already damaged several acres and is still wandering roaming in farmlands.
Fresh incidents of attack by wild jumbos have been reported in Appankappu colony, Munderi, Bhoothadanam and Muthukulam areas near Pothukallu and at Kariyam Muriyam Vanam, Arnadan Padam, Unichantham and Manakkad areas over the last week.
It is learnt that divisional forest offices in Nilambur have been receiving frantic phone calls at night from various places seeking help in the wake of wild elephant attacks. The jumbos uprooted jackfruit, rubber, and plantain trees on Saturday night at Muthukulam, where there is no electric fencing. “Even vehicles are unable to ply through roads in interior regions fearing attacks by elephant herds. With herds straying into human habitations in search of jackfruit, many have been left with little choice but to remove all jackfruit from trees and even fell trees,” said K P Abdul Rahman, convener of the action council formed by Pothukallu residents. Similar problems were reported in Marutha and Nellikuthu. For the last three days, vehicles have stopped travelling via the Pallippadi-Chembankolli road after 8pm.
Sunil Kumar, divisional forest officer of Nilambur south, said the issue is serious with increasing number of incidents being reported over the last two weeks. “There was a drop in incidents of elephant attacks in June and July, perhaps because many people removed jackfruit from the trees. We will deploy more staff in the region to drive them back into the forest,” he said, adding that it is not practical to reconstruct the electric fences due to staff shortage.
As the smell of jackfruit attracts elephants, Pothukallu residents had removed the fruit from trees in summer to prevent attacks. The experiment was largely successful as elephant attacks dropped during May and June. The DFO said the fresh incidents indicate that the wild elephants were attracted by the fruits that remained on trees in the region.
Meanwhile, the beehive fencing method employed in the Karulayi forest region to ward off elephants has proved effective.