A 43-strong herd has been ravaging crops and terrorising people in forest villages in Kuppam, in the latest instance of man-animal conflict in Andhra Pradesh.
But the lumbering beasts may have taken a tread too far this time. Kuppam happens to be the constituency of no less a personage than chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
“Pachyderms attacked standing crops of sugarcane, paddy and vegetables in the Brahmadevara Chenu forest region (which forms part of Kuppam),” said principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) A.V. Joseph.
The elephants were first spotted when a 22-member herd emerged on the Chennai-Bangalore section at Kuppam railway station, holding up train traffic for hours before the animals were finally scared away with drumbeats and torches.
Later, the herd attacked villagers and forest guards in border villages in Kuppam, which is at the tail end of Chittoor district and forms the tri-junction of hilly ranges of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra.
By then, however, the herd, which forest officials said, had strayed from the Bandipur elephant reserve in Karnataka, had swelled to 43, including 10 cows and eight calves.
Chittoor divisional forest officer T. Chakrapani said the elephant corridor (of Veerappan fame) had been disturbed between Hosur and Krishnagiri on the Tamil Nadu side because of red sanders smugglers and other vehicular timber traffic. “Unable to cross the track, pachyderms are often straying into Kuppam,” he added. “Once the disturbance in their track is cleared, normality will prevail in the region.”
Man-animal conflict is common in Andhra, which accounts for part of the hilly forest ranges of the Eastern Ghats.
In Kuppam, forest officials toured villages vulnerable to elephant attacks and assured farmers that they would be compensated for any loss they have suffered.
They also said trenches would be dug and immediate steps taken to ground battery-powered solar fences by December to prevent further damage.
The message was trumpet clear: if the elephants still try to come, they’ll learn it the hard way.