Arikkomban, Idukki, Parambikulam

Kerala: Protests erupt over shifting 'rice-loving' tusker to Parambikulam

Idukki’s relief could well be Palakkad’s nightmare.

The decision to move Idukki’s rice-loving wild tusker, Arikkomban, to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is now facing stiff opposition from locals and residents of Muthalmada in Palakkad district.

Arikkomban protests
Sit-in protests occurred in front of the wildlife warden’s office

Asking the government not to go ahead with the move, farmers’ organisations said Arikomban’s arrival would spell trouble in tribal hamlets in Parambikulam, where over 1,000 people reside.

Residents fear Arikomban, known for raiding ration shops and houses in Santhanpara, Anayirankal, Chinnakkanal, and Sinkukandam areas in Idukki, in search of food (read rice), would do the same in Parambikulam and nearby areas as well.

Protests have already started, with Muthalmada residents planning to move the court for a stay.

Also Read: Arikkomban, Kerala’s rice-stealing elephant, to be relocated from Idukki to Palakkad

Leading the protests is K Babu, a CPI(M) MLA, representing the Nenmara constituency.

“The tusker has reigned terror in Idukki. So obviously, it will do the same in Parambikulam as well. In fact, since it is a different terrain, it could be in a violent mood. Residents are really worried and I have told them we will go to any extent to protect them. Getting the elephant radio-collared does not help. I have called an all-party meeting to discuss the future course of action. We may even move court,” K Babu told The Federal.

Watch our on-the-spot video coverageWhy Kerala’s ‘rice-thief’ elephant is giving Idukki the chills

A farmers’ protection outfit said 27 elephants strayed out of Parambikulam, causing over Rs 40 lakh worth of damage to agricultural crops in Muthalamada, Kollengode, and Elavanchery panchayats.

On Thursday and Friday (April 6 and 7), locals staged sit-in protests in front of the wildlife warden’s office.

K Babu has also written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Forest Minister AK Saseendran.

Idukki’s headache

The elephant razed several houses, waylaid school buses and killed at least seven people in the last two years. Naturally enough, the residents of Santhanpara and Chinnakanal panchayat areas are in no mood for his antics.  That was when the government decided to get the tusker captured. Then the High Court interfered and it was decided that Arikomban would be sent to Parambikulam.

On Friday, the elephant attacked a house in 301 Colony. The tusker was with a herd that included a cow elephant and two calves during the attack. Fortunately, there were no casualties as the house owner and family were away when the incident occurred.

With Parambikulam residents now planning to approach court, it’s uncertain what forest officials will do regarding the shifting of the elephant.

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