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With man-elephant conflict becoming a common problem along forest fringes of Western Ghats, kumkis (trained elephants) from Tamil Nadu are increasingly used in Kerala too.
According to Forest Department officials, kumkis of Tamil Nadu Forest Department assisted around 10 operations in Kerala last year. The tasks taken over by the kumkis ranged from driving stray elephants out to capturing of “problematic” elephants.
In July, kumkis Khaleem and Venkatesh from Ulanthi range of Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) were taken to Munnar for a week to tackle man-elephant conflict.
Khaleem, known for his skills to handle problematic tuskers, had been part of several similar operations. In November last year, kumkis Mudumalai and Vijay from Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) assisted Kerala Forest Department in capturing a troublemaking 20-year-old elephant at Muthanga in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
V. Ganesan, Field Director of ATR, said that kumkis from the camp assisted Kerala Forest Department in three operations in the recent past. Kumkis from MTR were also used in some of the operations.
As of now, ATR and MTR have 23 kumkis each, and two others at Chadivayal elephant camp in Coimbatore. Each kumki is being taken care of by a mahout and kavadi, an assistant.
“Kumkis play major role in managing man-elephant conflict zones. The presence of a kumki itself can bring relief to recurrent visit of wild elephants in human habitations and farmlands. They are inevitable in operations like capturing and translocating problematic elephants,” said S. Ramasubramanian, Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle.
In the last inter-State task, kumkis Bomman and Wasim from MTR were taken to Mundur in Palakkad on August 11 to drive away three elephants that entered human habitation.
Along with the kumkis, Forest Veterinary Surgeons are also sent for such inter-State tasks to ensure their safety and sound health.
“The Kerala Forest Department takes care of our elephants very well. Mutual cooperation is essential in mitigating man-animal conflict, a common issue in all States,” said forest veterinary surgeon N.S. Manoharan, who has toured the southern States and West Bengal along with kumkis from Tamil Nadu.