Kerala’s attachment to elephants is well known. But on Sunday, an entire village in Wayanad district — an epicentre of animal-human conflict — paid tribute to one wild tusker who was beloved to the region.
Named ‘Maniyan’, the wild elephant — believed to be in his 40s — was a popular sight in Irulam and nearby villages on the fringes of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. He was gored to death on Saturday by another wild pachyderm.
On Sunday, traders and local residents in Irulam took out a silent march to pay tribute to Maniyan.
Panchayat member K A Riyas said the elephant was named Maniyan around 15 years ago by a lottery vendor.
“Maniyan used to come close to our football ground when children play. When fruits were shown, he used to extend his trunk. At night, Maniyan was seen at Irulam town to lift salt bags kept outside the shops. He never attacked anyone. Strangers have got frightened seeing Maniyan at the roadside. But, he never tried to scare anyone,’’ said Riyas.
Kurichiad (Wayanad) Forest Range Officer P Ratheesan said Maniyan was killed by another wild elephant believed to be in musth — a period characterised by a spike in aggression and reproductive hormones in animals. “Maniyan had sustained several injuries and died at Pullumala forest under Kurichiad range. This tusker was spotted in the region about three decades ago and was familiar in the locality. In four previous incidents, he sustained injuries in attacks by other wild elephants. During the musth period, Maniyan would move to the interior of the forest and go even up to nearby Karnataka forests. But soon he would return to his usual turf between Sulthan Bathery and Pulpally area in Wayanad.’’
Human-animal conflict hotbed
According to official data, 67 people had been killed in Wayanad the last decade due to man-animal conflict. Besides, 158 farmers and tribals have been seriously injured from animal attacks in the same period. In several villages on the fringes of forests, farmers have abandoned cultivation due to frequent raiding of crops by animals, mainly wild elephants.
According to wildlife expert Dr P S Easa, the situation was rare as Maniyan had become used to the presence of human beings. “It was never indulged in crop raiding. Maniyan was not trouble maker and hence people were tolerant towards him. The elephant also might have felt safe in the region. In Wayanad, where man-animal conflict is a serious issue, people loved Maniyan because of this tolerant behaviour.”
Forest veterinary officer Dr Arun Zachariah said every elephant has its own traits. “Maniyan has become an icon in the region and his story tells us how we should love a wild elephant. In Maniyan’s case, there was no negative impact from him to the local community. He was happily staying around a human settlement but never got fodder from local community. It had been a gradual adaption for both sides,’’ said Zachariah.