Arikomban: The state of being homeless!

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Photo: Sreejith P Raj/ Mathrubhumi

Some people become `stateless' in a sense when their habitat or territory undergoes a significant change or when the territory comes under the control of another state. Well, what if it is not a 'person', but an 'animal'?

Nobody knows the answer!

Indeed, the story of the wild tusker 'Arikomban' serves as a poignant example of being labeled as a refuge, that has drawn the attention of animal conservationists. This elephant has been caught in a constant shuffle between forest regions in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, leading to a prolonged debate about its fate. The question of how to proceed and what actions to take regarding this rice-loving rogue elephant remains uncertain.

On Monday, Arikomban or Arisikomban, looked weary when the forest officials tranquilised him and boarded him into the specially-designed ambulance to take him to Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (in Tirunelveli district). Interestingly, this is the second of two miles-long journey in his life --the first being his trip from Chinnakanal in Idukki to Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, at the expense of the Kerala Forest Department.

At one point during the journey, the tusker positioned his majestic trunk on the side of the ambulance, revealing a large wound. In fact, it depicts the raw irony of all the battles fought between animals and humans in their pursuit of survival.

Photo: Mathrubhumi

Though the Tamil Nadu government decided to translocate the elephant to the deep forest of the Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, it is unclear whether it could prevent the elephant from returning to human settlements. However, halfway through the challenging and tiresome journey, the officials received an order from the Madras court not to release the elephant in the tiger reserve. Instead, the court directed shifting the elephant to the forest region in Upper Kodayar, Manimuthar.

By the time the ambulance reached Tirunelveli town, the officials administered an additional dose to keep the elephant sleepy. However, the elephant's health became a concern for officials when the ambulance finally reached upper Kodyar by 5 pm. The locals here also protested against releasing the elephant.

While all these developments continue to attract the attention of citizens and netizens, Ernakulam native Rabekka Joseph filed a petition in Madras High Court demanding to hand over the elephant back to Kerala. The court is scheduled to hear the petition on Tuesday.

However, the question still remains, does Arikomban belong to someone?

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