Kalladikkode (Palakkad): A game of hide and seek is on at Palakkad between the forest officials and the wild elephants. Despite being chased into the forest after tremendous effort, they returned to the villages near Mundur in Palakkad, sensing that the 'kumki' elephants, deployed to drive them into the forests had left the scene. The herd that returned was later spotted in a field at Mullakkara near Mundur at around 8 pm Saturday.
Villagers, agitated over the return of the elephants, got into an altercation with the forest officials and gheraoed them. Following the tense situation, police arrived at the spot and pacified the people.
The local people alleged that the forest officials were not keen to send back the animals into the deep forest, even though the elephants had spent a whole day near Kayyara. People stopped the protest when the forest officials assured them that the elephants would be chased into the deep forest Sunday.
Additional hands have been deployed by the forest department to stop elephants from entering the human habitats. Saturday morning, from 9 am to 5.30 pm, the foresters searched the area with the assistance of kumki elephants to prevent the re-entry of the wild animals into the villages.
The hilly areas of Oduvankad, Kayaramkad, Njarakkad and Palakkizhi, generally known as the gateway of the pachyderms, were combed.Range Officer Sherif said the search operation and vigil were successful as the wild elephants had not tried to stray into human habitats during the day.
The captive kumki elephants are trained to detect the presence of wild elephants in a radius of two kilometers. Based on this, the forest officials reached the conclusion that there were no instances of straying during the day. When the Kumki elephants left the area, the wild herd emerged from the forest.
The wild elephants were first spotted near human settlements in the border areas of Thrissur and Palakkad districts on August 4. Since then, the forest officials, the police and the local people had been trying to drive them back into the forests, but with no result. The animals would go back for a while, only to return to another village, across several kilometers. It is assumed that the elephants are coming from the Dhoni forest region, a known elephant habitat, in search of food and water.
Unlike earlier, when single elephants would stray briefly into the human habitations, the recent trend was a prolonged outing by herds lead by a powerful leader. Experts have attributed this change in behavior of the wild elephants to the climate change and its impact on the elephant habitats in the forests.