Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Farmers protest against move to relocate wild elephant

Thiruvananthapuram Protest intensified in many areas of Palakkad and Thrissur districts on Monday over the move to relocate a rogue elephant nicknamed Arikomban from Idukki to Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary following the directive of the Kerala high court.

Last week, the court had ordered Arikomban, a 40-year-old elephant, which has been wreaking havoc in human settlements in Chinnakanal and Santhampara panchayats in Idukki district to be darted, radio-collared and trans-located in Parambikulam tiger reserve. Earlier, the court had blocked the forest department’s move to make it a “kumki” (trainer) elephant after the intervention of animal activists. Later the HC-appointed expert committee had suggested that the elephant can be released Mutuvarachal area of the Parambikulam tiger reserve after tranquillising it in Idukki.

But many villages around the tiger reserve opposed the move vehemently saying troublemaking elephant notorious for many deaths and destruction of properties in Idukki will spell doom for them. Chalakudy MLA K Babu, many panchayat presidents and farmer outfits have also moved the high court against the decision of the expert committee. A 12-hour shutdown was called in Muthalamada panchayat in Palakkad against the move. Angry local people took out processions at several places and blocked roads in last two days.

“It was a specialist in raiding human habitats and destroying properties and lives. We have no idea why is it being relocated to disturb our peace. Experts said the jumbo’s movement range is 40 kms and many villages will come under this range,” said a local farmer P Velayudhan in Palakkad. “People of six panchayats will be affected if it was relocated. We cannot accept such a risky proportion. We have already approached the court against it,” said Nenmara MLA K Babu. Chalakudy MLA Saneesh Kumar also opposed the move. Fearing backlash from the court the forest department has been keeping a studied silence. The jumbo will be translocated to Parambikulam that is 150 kms away from Idukki.

Last month the HC had stayed the “Operation Arikomban” after the People for Animals and Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy approached the court saying the move to capture the elephant and making it a “kumki” through rigorous training was unscientific and cruel. They said human intervention and lack of food and water caused by encroachment were main reasons for elephant incursions and netting or capturing it was not a permanent solution. Later the court had constituted an expert committee that recommended relocation of the animal.

The jumbo was called Arikomban because it was fond of rice_ rice is “ari” and “komban” is a bull elephant in Malayalam. It earned enough notoriety after it raided many ration shops regularly for rice and two ration shops were later shifted to faraway places. Idukki residents said after shifting ration shops it started attacking houses for rice. They said it destroyed more than 60 houses and shops and trampled eight people to death in two years. In the affidavit given to the High Court forest department said it killed seven people and destroyed more than 30 buildings in last six months.

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