Jungle comes calling in Kerala's hilly villages

Jungle comes calling in Kerala's hilly villages
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Marayoor/Munnar: The high ranges in the Idukki district have some strange visitors. Wild elephants, gaurs and even tigers have ventured out into human habitats in search of food.

A herd of gaurs roamed around the Marayoor town even as the rain subsided on the hills. The rare sight has drawn thousands of people to the laid-back town by a sandalwood forest. The sandalwood forest of Marayoor is home to spotted deer and sambar apart from gaur.

Wild animal incursions were a common sight in Marayoor during the summer months, when water bodies dried up inside the forest. Incessant rains over the past three weeks have filled up the rivers and lakes and green shoots have appeared everywhere.

Though most of the wild animals have since retreated to the forests, one particular herd of gaurs seems to be excited about civilization.

In Mattuppetty, it was a lone tusker that challenged human dominance. The elephant first made an appearance in the town on Sunday. He just strolled near the entrance to the boating centre without a care to the world. He even helped himself with the pineapples and ears of corn from the pavement eateries.

Fortunately, the popular tourist area was deserted because of the low levels of water in the reservoir that prevented boating.

The elephant returned on Monday as well, causing a traffic jam with his presence that lasted for more than an hour.

As if one tusker was not problematic enough, an entire herd came down on a cardamom plantation in Udumbanchola near Nedunkandam. The jumbos have trampled 20 acres of cardamom plants which were ready for harvest.

The herd has settled itself near the human habitat. Though the people tried to shoo them away, they just persisted and returned to the cardamom plantation.

The farmers are staring at heavy losses because they were getting ready to sell the product when the demand was high. They have been clamouring for immediate intervention from the forest department.

Even last year, wild elephants had trampled on agricultural produce worth lakhs of rupees in the same areas.

The elephants even got into a field where the farmers were growing grass for their cows. The dairy farmers are clueless about what to feed their cattle.

Munnar had another visitor who was more demanding. A tiger has been spotted in Munnar's Kannimala area. The predator has mauled a pregnant cow that belonged to a labourer in the Kannimala area. The forest officers who visited the area confirmed that the attacker was indeed a tiger, judging by the bite marks and pug marks found at the site.

The cow which had been let loose for grazing was found by labourers on Monday morning.

It is not just the animals that the farmers are afraid of. At least a dozen head of cattle have disappeared from the Kozhikkanam area in the last few months. Robin who lives in the Kozhikkanam estate has lost four of his cows.

The dairy farmers suspect that a gang of thieves have made away with the cattle for meat. Henry, a farmer, has lodged a complaint with the police that his cow has been shot and sold off as meat. He said that he traced the remains of the cow and found out that it was shot.

The police launched an investigation but failed to nab any culprits.

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