Panic as wild elephants move closer to human habitations (Chittoor and Kadapa Districts, India)


K. Umashanker, The Hindu

Date Published

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A herd of wild elephants has created panic among the forest fringe villages abutting the lush green Chamala valley of Seshachalam Hills in the last 48 hours, forcing forest officials from Tirurpati Wildlife Division to deploy three kumkis (trained elephants) to drive the wild herd back into the valley.

The undulating terrain with valleys, hills and thickly forested slopes from Talakona to Rajampeta between Chittoor and Kadapa districts is home to over 40 elephants. Straying from Chamala Valley, a part of the herd with about a dozen animals, had ventured into a huge water body zone close to Talakona beat a week ago. As they kept raiding crops in the vicinity, it became a concern to farmers. Fortunately, except for agriculture fields and with presence of farmers at work, the area does not have human habitations.

Trackers deployed at the troubled zone noticed the presence of four elephant calves (two of them might be days old).

Additional Principal Conservator of Forests B.K. Singh prepared an action plan to drive away the wild herd back into the forests. It was observed that lingering of wild elephants close to human habitations and fields, that too with their calves, would only bring more trouble.

On Monday morning, two trained elephants from Naniyala near Kuppam were brought to Talakona area, followed by the third kumki from Tirupati. Senior officials from Tirupati, Bhakarapeta and Balupalle (Kadapa district) led the action team to the Talakona area.

Mr. Singh said factors such as lure of agriculture crops might have tempted the herd to move away from Chamala valley.

“This is a temporary development, and they would once again be going back. We hope to accomplish out target in a week. Our men and trained elephants would be camping at the troubled spot and overseeing the operation round the clock. Our teams have sighted the presence of four calves in the herd close to Siddalagandi tank,” he said.

The official said that he had recently undertaken inspection of the Talakona plateau, and the vast area was brimming with water sources, and “we could even see elephants drinking water from the ponds deep inside the forests”. Mr. Singh observed that the Chamala valley is a beautiful habitat for wild elephants and it offers them ample food and water. “My priority is to give moral support to the farmers who are afraid of losing their crops due to elephant raids. We will do everything to provide them due compensation,” he said, appealing to the farmers to cooperate with the officials as the operation to drive the animals back into the forests is on.

In 1984, the Asian elephant species, reappeared in the forests of southern Chittoor, after a hiatus of three centuries. After a decade, a five-member herd, a breakaway group of a massive herd from the western side, entered the Chamala valley. During the last 25 years, the number gradually grew to a healthy 40.

Meanwhile, Red Sanders Task Force Inspector General of Police M. Kantha Rao sought the combing parties to be cautious in their errands in the Seshachalam hills in view of the disturbed movement of wild elephants.