The Pioneer’s report published recently that Kerala was fast becoming the graveyard for wild animals is being substantiated by the State’s Forest Department, an institution set up to protect jungles and wild animals.
The entire population in Wayanad district has demanded a “death sentence” for a wild tusker that killed a 47-year-old man in Mananthawadi, a forest suburb, on Saturday.
Residents insist that the Forest Department should eliminate the elephant, either by shooting it or tranquilising and relocating it to a safer area.
However, recent incidents prove that the Forest Department does not have qualified veterinary specialists for tranquilising the elephant.
“A few weeks ago, we saw an elephant known as ‘Thanneer Komban’ succumbing to a tranquilising shot administered by the Forest Department’s veterinary surgeon. No investigation was conducted to determine the cause of the pachyderm’s death,” said V K Venkitachalam, chairman of the Heritage Animal Task Force, an organisation in Thrissur dedicated to wildlife welfare.
Venkitachalam noted that the death of Thanneer Komban, reportedly tranquilised by a Government veterinarian, could be attributed to outdated tranquiliser. “The tranquilising pistol and drug have expired, and there is no official record indicating the provision of new tranquiliser. Additionally, there is a shortage of qualified veterinarians to tranquilise elephants or other wild animals,” he added.
The past two months saw a leopard and a wild boar being killed within minutes of receiving tranquiliser shots, which Venkitachalam considers a strange coincidence.
A K Saseendran, Kerala Minister for Forest and wild Life, who celebrated his 78th birthday on January 29 remained incommunicado for hours and ordered the tusker be tranquilised at the earliest and shifted to Muthanga Elephant Camp. However, the Minister was non-committal regarding the mission’s timing.
Local residents in Mananthawadi, many of whom reside on forest land allocated to them by regional political parties, blamed the Forest Department for the elephant’s intrusion into residential areas.
Venkitachalam countered, saying the animals’ habitat has diminished due to the Government’s concessions to the forest mafia, who distribute forest land at their discretion.
“There is a lack of water and vegetation for elephants and other wild animals, prompting them to encroach upon human settlements in search of sustenance. We cannot blame wild animals for their efforts to survive,” he said.
As a token of goodwill, the Government has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the deceased’s family and employment for the widow of the individual killed by the tusker.