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Last Updated Thursday October 19 2017 11:28 PM IST

Climate change impact: Elephants carry out ‘organized’ raids in human habitats for food

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Climate change impact: Elephants carry out ‘organized’ raids in human habitats for food

It seems that the elephants are also altering their way of life in tune with the challenges posed by the climate change. Nowadays, the elephants stray into human settlements in groups. It is considered as a major shift from the known behavioral pattern of the animals which used to trespass into the villages as singles. Experts observe that this change in the habit of the wild animal could be cited as the reason behind the trespassing of elephants into Palakkad district these days. A herd of three elephants are wandering the villages of Palakkad for the past nine days, triggering panic in the thickly populated areas there.

The change in the behavior patterns of the pachyderms is viewed as a natural shift to cope up with the crisis posed by a changing climate. The animals are naturally learning to address the dearth of food in the forests and to take risk that becomes very essential for its survival in the tough times ahead.

Forest veterinary officer Dr Arun Sacharia said he had been observing this change for the past three years. Studies on this change of behavior had been conducted in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Earlier, one or two elephants which stray into the villages near forests, used to wander about for a couple of days and after that they used to go back to the forest. Nowadays, the herds that come down the forest led by an elder one, as a group of three to five animals traverse long distances through human habitats, giving sleepless nights for the people living there.

  • Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest

    A family outing of three wild elephants into the thickly populated villages near Thrissur-Palakkad border is giving sleepless nights to the people there. Photo: Jeejo John

    Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest
  • Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest

    The herd, which created scare in Peringottukurissi, reached the Bharatappuzha River through Thiruvilvamala in Thrissur district. Photo: Jeejo John

    Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest
  • Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest

    Police and forest officials tried all possible means to drive the elephants back into the forest, but in vain. Photo: Jeejo John

    Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest
  • Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest

    The small herd, including a tusker, a female and a calf, is having a good time foraging on the crops in the plantations and homesteads in the locality. Photo: Jeejo John

    Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest
  • Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest

    The elephants are likely to turn violent and create havoc in the area if the animals get shot by tranquilizers. Photo: Jeejo John

    Wild elephants refuse to go back to forest

In several such instances, the animals often lose their direction and wander aimlessly for days together. The forest officials had a very trying time recently in Wayanad to force a herd of five elephants to return to the forests. When the officials managed to capture the most ferocious one among them, the rest of the animals came to its rescue and attacked the vehicle in which the captured animal had been locked up.

It is not uncommon among the wild elephants to migrate from one forest to another. Usually the young ones led by a powerful leader group together and leave the forest limits in search of food. Repeated droughts have dried up the water sources in the forests. Even though the forest officials have adopted several methods to ensure the availability of water for the animals in the forest, the scarcity of food and water continues to be a grave problem. The researchers and officials say that the bamboo groves, the favorite food of the animals, are almost on the verge of extinction. Besides, this other food resources in the forests are also dwindling steadily. Most of the elephant habitats in the forests are fast becoming barren.

The steep hills and shola forest areas of Western Ghats from Ettimada in Coimbatore to Kalladikkode in Palakkad are sporting a shaved off look now, exposing the depth of deforestation. The elephants that used to come out to feed on these hilly areas and sholas when food is scarce in the deep forests, now find these buffer areas barren and venture out into the plantations and fields to forage on plantains and other standing crops. Experts say that the accidents and dangers met by the elephants that strayed out alone, also could have prompted the animals to come out in groups.

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