Hogging limelight due to the antics of rice-eating tusker Arikkomban, Anayirankal area, which falls within the territorial limits of Chinnakanal and Santhanpara panchayats in Idukki district, was an elephant habitat before “unscientific resettlements” in the area gave rise to man-animal conflicts, an expert committee has told the Kerala High Court.
The Committee of Experts (CoE), appointed by the High Court to decide whether the tusker should be kept in captivity or relocated, in its report has said that the Anayirankal area was not only an elephant habitat, it also had some traditional settlements of the tribal Muthuvan community who peacefully co-existed with the wild animals there and continue to do so.
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“Subsequent unscientific resettlements in the area have given rise to human-animal conflict,” the report has said. It also said that these conflicts, over time, escalated to other areas such as Tankkudi, Chempakathozhukudi, Kozhipannakudi, 301 colony, Singukandam, BL Puram, Suryanelli, Panthadikalam, Chinnakanal, 80 acre colony, Vilakku, Nagamala, Thondimala, Poopara etc.
The findings of the CoE assume significance as the High Court on March 29 had warned the state government of strict action if the court found that the area in Idukki district where Arikomban was roaming had been an elephant habitat before the resettlements there.
A bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Gopinath P had called for records and reports on the resettlement of tribal people in the area back in 2000 and said, “If it was an elephant habitat, you had no business resettling people there and putting them in danger.” The court had said that resettling people in an elephant habitat was the “root of the entire problem”.
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“We will examine it. If it was an elephant habitat, then your policymakers went way off board. If people were resettled there despite being aware of this fact, we will come down heavily on those responsible. Errors in history can be corrected later in time. We need to find whether the mistake happened and if yes, correct it,” the bench had added.
The order had come on a PIL moved by two animal rights groups — People for Animals (PFA), Trivandum Chapter, and the Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy — against the capture and captivity of the tusker.
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday agreed with the suggestion of the expert committee to capture, radio-collar and translocate Arikkomban to the Parambikulam tiger reserve in Palakkad district.
(With Agency inputs)