Tribal families in Gudalur affected by elephant attacks demand new homes

Tribal families of Gudalur who bear the brunt of attack by wild elephants have demanded permanent residences from the Tamil Nadu forest department.

While single tuskers are the culprits in most of the attacks in the Gudalur area, in some cases a herd of wild elephants also have attacked the make-shift residences of tribals who live deep in the forests in the area.

The families, around 30 of them have demanded that the state government and the forest department, in particular, build new homes for them. Gudalur division forest officials have lent a sympathetic ear to the demand of the tribal families.

Venugopal, a tribal elder from Puliyampara tribal colony near Gudalur while speaking to IANS said: “The wild elephants attack our hamlets sometimes individually and in some cases in herds. Ultimately we are the losers. Luckily none from our settlement lost their lives even though we have inflicted minor injuries while running away from the attacking pack.”

He said that the elephants reach the hamlet in search of food and honey besides banana plantations and other crops.

However, elephant conservationists said that Puliyampara was an elephant pathway and the tribal families had constructed their make-shift hutments in this area that provoked the elephants.

Shaji Joseph, Wildlife scientist, and researcher on Wild elephants while speaking to IANS said: “The demand of the tribals is just as far as their dwellings are concerned, but they should not have made their make shift huts in the elephant pathway. We don’t have any objection to the government constructing brand new residences for the poor adivasi population but the forest department must make sure that these residences are not built near any stream or in elephant pathways.”

He said that several settlers have bought the land from tribal families and have constructed buildings in elephant pathways leading to man-animal conflict.

Forest department officials said that they have received applications from tribal families for a decent settlement and that the department has already forwarded it to the government of Tamil Nadu.

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