A file picture of a mahout with trained elephants at an Elephant camp in Dubare Reserve Forest in Madekeri District around 280km from Bangalore, India. EFE/EPA/FILE/JAGADEESH NV

Suspended mission reflects India’s human-elephant conflict

New Delhi, Mar 24 (EFE) .- The authorities of the southern Indian state of Kerala were prepared with necessary arrangements to capture this weekend a wild elephant, believed to have killed ten people in recent years and caused chaos in human settlements in search for their favorite food: rice.

However, the regional High Court the previous day ordered the temporary suspension of operations, following a plea from an animal protection group.

The nonprofit People for Animals, during an interaction with EFE on Friday, described the futility of trying to solve the problem by capturing the wild animal, given the rising conflict between animals and humans due to a progressive loss of natural spaces.

“We thought of going to the court because things were not being done in the proper way. I mean there is a proper legal way of doing things in these cases,” said People for Animals secretary in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, Latha Indira.

Indira underlined that the only reason for capturing the elephant was that locals had put pressure on the authorities to act in the face of repeated incidents related to the wild animal.

“So we feel that even if this elephant is taken away, the problem will persist because there are other elephants in that area,” she said.

The activist further pointed out that the presence of humans in the area was the source of the conflict, given that the place had been used as a passage by elephants without human intervention until 2002, and not the other way around.

According to the authorities of the district of Idukki, the inhabitants of the area have long been calling for the capture of the elephant in question, named Arikomban by the people, for allegedly having killed ten people and destroyed more than 60 constructions, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

However, Indira has questioned the veracity of the figures quoted by the locals.

The plan was to lure the elephant to a fake grocery store full of rice, and capture it and then tame it, in an operation similar to another earlier this year in Palakkad area.

The plan has been suspended at least until the end of the month, but it highlights the ambivalent status of these pachyderms in India, worshiped as a national and even religious symbol by some and hated at the same time by those who suffer their attacks.

India is home to a population of about 27,700 wild elephants, according to the 2017 census, and account for about half of the total pachyderms in Asia, while another 3,500 domesticated ones live in captivity.

Wild elephants in India are scattered in about 30 reserves, which occupy about 65,000 square kilometers, but include areas used by humans, according to the nonprofit Wildlife Trust of India. EFE