Tiger attacks on elephant calves on the rise in Wayanad sanctuary (State of Kerala, India)


Dhinesh Kallungal, The New Indian Express

Date Published

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KOCHI: A Big cat may find it challenging to kill or even seriously injure a wild rogue tusker. But what about an elephant calf or juvenile which strays away or is abandoned by its herd?

Of late, there has been a spurt in incidents of juvenile or elephant calves being scavenged by the tigers in the Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary, a haven for Asiatic elephants and big cats in Kerala.

As many as six juvenile and elephant calves were killed by tigers in the sanctuary in past few months. Though the department is planning to conduct a study on these incidents, wildlife experts are of the opinion the wildlife is thriving in the Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary and the recent killing of juvenile elephants by tigers underscores this fact.

According to Dr Arun Zachariah, forest veterinary surgeon, the sanctuary has become a haven for elephants and tigers, which is evident from the recent attacks. In fact, the tigers attack juvenile and elephant calves when they stray out of the herd or after being abandoned by the elephant herd due to various reasons. An average tiger usually succeeds only once in at least 15-20 attempts of preying. So, the quantity of biomass is very important for them as each attempt is equally important for its health as well, he said.

A senior forest officer in the rank of PCCF said since elephants are highly social animals with complex family, they will not abandon the juveniles or calves without proper reasons. If a herd abandons a calf, it is not fit enough to survive under normal circumstances, which is a natural process. The increasing incidents of elephant juveniles being preyed upon by tigers show both animals are having a healthy wild life inside the sanctuary, the officer said. 

“I don’t think there has been huge spurt in such attacks. Tigers used to kill elephants in the past as well. However, with the forests coming under camera surveillance as part of tiger and elephant census, each case is being reported and registered, which is the main reason for the spurt in cases,” he said. However, he said there has been a considerable increase in the population of tigers and elephants in the forests of Kerala.  P Dhaneshkumar, former South Wayanad DFO, said there has been a huge increase in the cross over of wild animals to the Wayanad wildlife Sanctuary during summer from the neighbouring Mudumalai- Bandipur- Nagarhole forests, although it’s an annual process.

Despite the pressure from various quarters, including resort mafias, the Forest Department has been maintaining Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary – spread over 344 sq km – as one of the best-conserved areas in the state, which is home to 76 tigers against the 136 of Kerala, as mentioned in the Status of Tigers in India 2014 report.