Arikkomban, Idukki, Parambikulam

Arikomban now creates havoc in Tamil Nadu; has forest officers on their toes

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Arikkompan, a wild tusker which had been translocated from Chinnakkanal area of Idukki district of Kerala last month, has entered Cumbum in Theni district of Tamil Nadu and caused havoc in the town, creating a sensation in both states.

As per the latest reports, efforts are afoot to have the elephant tranquilised as early as possible.

Tamil Nadu forest officials say they plan to relocate it to the interior forests using a special vehicle from Hosur.

The tusker was seen roaming through the town on Saturday after being spotted near a human habitation at Kumily in Idukki on Friday.

The jumbo has been moving back and forth along the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border since April 30 when it was released into the Periyar Tiger Reserve as part of a court-ordered translocation operation.

Watch: After Arikomban, another elephant creates havoc

A few days later, it was seen in Meghhamalai and mock-charged at a bus in Chinnamanur. After staying in Meghamalai for over a week, it returned to the Kerala border last week.

It is said to have moved into the Tamil Nadu forests late Friday. And on Saturday, it created havoc at Cumbum, a border town.

“I was on the balcony of a friend’s house when I heard people screaming. Suddenly the tusker came charging into an auto-rikshaw and I saw people run,” a resident said. “Some shouted at others to get away. The elephant roamed on the road for some time before running towards the western direction.”

Cumbum happenings

Selvaraj Madhavan, a mechanic from Cumbum, told The Federal over telephone: “Later we came to know that the elephant overturned a couple of vehicles. A person was hurt when he tried to escape from the animal.”

As the animal roamed through the streets, civic authorities made announcements on the public address system cautioning people to stay indoors. Meanwhile, videos of the elephant running around went viral.

A man who was attacked was identified as Paulraj. He was under treatment at a government hospital, officials said.

Local MLA Cumbum N Eramakrishnan took up the matter with the Forest Department.

The elephant, notorious for its ration shop raids in neighbouring Kerala and love for rice, also uprooted a fence put up around a piece of land.

Even though the elephant is running amok in Cumbum in Tamil Nadu, it is the Malayalam social media that seems to be both more excited and divided over what to do with Arikkomban.

Divided society

There are those who believe that the elephant should be captured and relocated while others believe that it should be left alone.

Kerala Forest Minister AK Saseendran said that if the elephant returns to Kerala, the government will ask the expert committee to suggest a solution.

“We will approach the high court if needed. The elephant is now in Tamil Nadu, and the state government will take the necessary action. The over-the-top love of elephants by some people in Kerala is the reason for the current problems,” he said.

“We had a plan to tranquilize the elephant and take it into captivity but the court intervened. We cannot say for sure that we will follow through with that decision. We knew that it was pointless to send the elephant to the deep forest. Tamil Nadu can do whatever they think is best for the situation but I am not sure if there will be another court order,” said Saseendran.

“Arikkomban has proven that he is a ‘homer elephant’. So, allow him to go home and retain him there is the only sane decision,” says Sreedevi S Kartha, a trustee of People for Animals, one of the groups that approached the high court in the issue.

Kerala fans

Fans of the wild tusker, who had been waiting for his return to his birthplace, are having a field day celebrating his entry into human habitat on social media.

There are hundreds of fan pages set up for the tusker on Facebook and other social media platforms.

However, a case was filed against a group of ‘so-called’ animal lovers for allegedly swindling money amounting to Rs. 7 lakhs by setting up crowdfunding for the return of Arikkomban to Kerala.

“I am ashamed of our society that is batting for a rogue elephant who has killed several people,” said an enraged Dean Kuriakose, the MP from Idukki. “This is so unfortunate that a section of people is rejoicing a conflict when animals return to human habitat. Aren’t we suffering from a hasty decision by the court? the Congress leader asked.

“The elephant rampage in Cumbum is a result of judicial overreach. The state government had decided to tranquilize the elephant after consulting experts, but the court overruled the decision based on the opinion of a few individuals. Now, who is responsible for the chaos in Cumbum?” asked M Gopakumar, a social activist and political commentator.

“Now, the Tamil Nadu government will do the right thing, and these people will criticize the Kerala government for inaction,” he added.

The elephant has caused damage to property and crops and has even injured some people. The situation is delicate, and there are no easy answers to what is clearly an elephantine crisis.

(With Agency inputs)

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