Fruiting trees, human activity reasons for problamatic human-elephant
interactions in O’Valley (Coimbatore)
June 21, 2022
The Gudalur Forest Division has detailed the reasons for increasing
incidents of problematic human-elephant interaction in O’Valley,
identifying planting of fruiting trees that attract elephants, and
blockages to elephant movement as being the key drivers of conflict.
In a statement, the Gudalur Forest Division said it was proactively taking
steps to minimise problematic interactions between humans and elephants in
O’Valley range, including deploying five kumki elephants from Theppakadu to
drive away wild elephants from near human habitations, increasing
deployment of field staff including Rapid Response Teams, anti-poaching
watchers and anti-depradation squad members, drone cameras to monitor
elephant movement, installing early warning systems, controlled fires and
smoke at entry point to villages to deter elephants, continuous monitoring
of elephants, providing transport to public and other measures.
However, human activity in the landscape is also exacerbating conditions
that lead to problematic interactions between elephants and humans, the
“Jackfruits, banana plantations and areca nut plantations are enticing the
elephant (OVT1, known by locals as Radhakrishnan and believed to have
killed two persons recently) towards human habitations. O’Valley is an
important elephant corridor which connects Nilambur North Forest Division
in Kerala with the Nilgiris Division, Gudalur Forest Division and Mudumalai
Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu which is an important pathway for maintaining
genetic diversity of elephant populations of South India.
“During the present season, elephants move back from Nilambur towards
Mudumalai via O’Valley. In O’Valley range, elephants move through
fragmented forest patches, tea, coffee, clove, cardamom estates, and human
habitations. Encroachments, janmam lands and section 17 land issues
resulted in the fragmentation of contiguous forests into many patches.
Being a long range animal, when it moves from one fragment to other
fragments through tea gardens and human habitations, the human-elephant
interactions become inevitable in such landscapes,” the statement added.
The Forest Department also went onto state that human activity in the
region has led to a significant reduction in forest cover over the last few
decades, with human settlements spread out over a large area, making it
difficult for the Department to provide adequate protection from elephants
moving through the landscape.
“Most of the crops like jackfruit, areca nut, plantains, coconut, avacado,
cardamom are favorite foods of elephants and they are available in plenty
only at the human habitations or near labour lines of plantation estates.
This is one of the major reason that the jumbos enter the human
habitations,” the statement added.