Arikomban: Kerala forest minister takes a dig at pro-animal outfits over TN episode

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AK Saseendran | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: As rogue tusker 'Arikomban' strayed into an inhabited area in Cumbum in Tamil Nadu on Saturday morning, Kerala Forest Minister A K Saseendran said the animal is now staying within the borders of the neighbouring state and the authorities there would take an appropriate decision on the matter. The elephant, notorious for its ration shop raids and love for rice, was translocated through an hours-long mission into the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) by wildlife officials of the Kerala government last month. Saseendran said the forest officials of Tamil Nadu are in constant contact with their counterparts in Kerala and it is learnt that the jumbo would be tranquilised and released into a deep forest there.

He also rejected criticisms that the mission to translocate Arikomban from Chinnakkanal to PTR was a failed one and said it was not the decision of the Kerala forest department.

Criticising the pro-animal outfits who had approached the court against the department's decision to shift the jumbo to a rehabilitation centre, the minister said the present issues were the outcome of their "extreme love" for the elephant.

"The department's actual plan was to tranquilise the elephant and shift it to a training and rehabilitation centre. But as the outfits approached the judiciary and as per the High Court decision, we shifted it to the PTR," Saseendran explained.

He further said that in the wake of the straying of the wild pachyderm into human settlements, the Kerala forest department would soon seek an opinion from the court-appointed expert panel on the stand to be taken if the animal returned to Chinnakkanal, its actual abode.

"Arikomban is now staying within the borders of Tamil Nadu and the government there will take an appropriate decision on what to do there," he added. Meanwhile, many leaders and people's representatives criticised the decision to translocate Arikomban and termed the mission a "failed one".

Kerala Congress (M) chairman Jose K Mani, a coalition partner of the ruling LDF, said the translocation of wild elephants has failed even in foreign countries.

The translocation mission of Arikomban was a failed experiment, he told reporters in Kottayam.

He also urged the Centre to amend the Wildlife Protection Act in view of increasing man-animal conflict in states like Kerala.

Dean Kuriakose, a Congress MP representing Idukki, said the situation was "really unfortunate" and pointed out that hundreds of people had a narrow escape from the raging elephant in Tamil Nadu's Cumbum this morning.

Criticising the elephant lovers who objected to the plan to send the jumbo to the rehabilitation centre, he contended that they might be "happy" to see all these developments.

A decision should be taken at the earliest on the Arikomban issue and the lives of people cannot be left at risk, Kuriakose said in an agitated manner.

Arikomban, which strayed into Cumbum in Theni district of Tamil Nadu on Saturday, attacked one person and destroyed some property.

With the wild pachyderm roaming through the streets, civic authorities made announcements on the public address system, cautioning people to stay indoors, even as videos of the elephant running around went viral.

Panicked local residents were seen running for safety, even as the elephant went around the town bordering Kerala.

It attacked one person, identified as Paulraj, and he is receiving treatment at a government hospital, authorities said.

The animal also damaged an autorickshaw in the town and uprooted a fence put up around a piece of land. PTI

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