Man versus wild: Why Kerala can’t decide what to do with an elephant raiding shops and homes for rice

An elephant crossing warning in Pooppara on Munnar road. Photos: Shafeeque Thamarassery

On April 5, the Kerala High Court issued an unusual order, to relocate a wild tusker from one place to another, on a petition filed by a couple of animal rights activist group. Arikkomban, the rice loving pachyderm who had a habit of raiding ration shops and houses in search of rice, was wreaking havoc in the high range area of Santhanpara-Chinnakkanal panchayats in Idukki district for long. Owing to the pressure of a string of protests by the local people, the government was forced to prepare for the capture of the animal.

This got stalled as the Kerala High Court stayed the government’s decision on March 23 in a late-night sitting considering the plea by People for Animals (PFA), Trivandrum Chapter and the Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy. On March 29, the court constituted an expert committee to determine whether the elephant should be captured and trained as a Kumki elephant or relocated to another forest. It was after the committee’s suggestion, the court ruled that the jumbo be translocated to Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.

“When we approached the court, we only had one objective: to prevent this tusker, Arikkomban, from suffering the same fate as PM 2 and PT 7, the two elephants that were captured form Wayanad and Palakkad last month. They were captured and turned into slaves as Kumkis. Was this what the local people wanted, to capture him, transport him to an alien habitat, and feed him food that is not his and that will slowly kill him?” asks Sreedevi S Kartha, a trustee of the People for Animals.

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