Wild or captive, elephants remain major killers in Kerala
Dhinesh Kallungal, The Hindu
February 11, 2024
The latest incident of a wild elephant killing a man in Wayanad triggered a
new wave of protest in Kerala, with the State Forest department sending a
special team to tranquilise the elephant on Sunday.
It has been hardly a week since another elephant, locally called Thanneer
Komban, died after being tranquilized and relocated from Wayanad.
The statistics available with the Forest department and other agencies
paint a poor picture of affairs in the State. As per the records available
with the Forest department, 202 people were killed in the State from 2012
to February 2023 in wild elephant attacks.
However, all these deaths did not happen in attacks by wild elephants that
strayed into human habitations. A good number of these deaths were in
attacks by elephants inside the forests or in forest fringe areas.
A case-by-case study based on location was needed to ascertain the cause of
each of these incidents, said a forest officer.
On the other hand, domesticated elephants killed 196 people in the State,
mainly at festival venues, during the period from 2011 to 2023, according
to the data available with the Heritage Animal Task Force, an organisation
of animal welfare activists.
“We could hardly see any serious protests against the tragic incidents
involving captive elephants, as the majority of these cases happen at
festival venues. This is evident from the tale of Thechikottukavu
Ramachandran that allegedly killed 13 people in the past two decades, but
still remains much sought-after at the festival venues in the State.
However, there has been a marked drop in human casualties at festival
venues since 2023 following the intervention of animal rights activists and
media against the abuse of elephants at festival venues,” said V.K.
Venkitachalam, general secretary of the organisation.
A senior Forest department officer told The Hindu that tranquilising and
relocating wild elephants from areas prone to human-wild elephant conflict
was not a practical and permanent solution.
Relocating the people living close to elephant passes and forest fringe
areas, along with taking preventive measures to reduce the number of
elephants straying into human habitations, should be the long-term
strategy, he said.