A 14-year-old, Shiju Kani, died on Wednesday in the human-elephant conflict in the Komba region of the Neyyar wildlife sanctuary in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. The boy and his two cousins were out in the forest collecting herbs and reeds for making baskets when they stumbled upon a herd of elephants.
Shiju Kani is the son of Gopan and Bindhu of the Thenmala tribal settlement in Komda forest. He was along with his brother, 16-year-old Alan and two older cousins, 19-year-old Shiju and 18-year old Sreejith. The four youth suffered injuries in the attack but the youngest from the group did not survive.
The four had gone to the forest to collect herbs and reeds to make basket and fishing poles. The boys were among the dense growth of reeds on the banks of the Neyyar river and were unaware of the presence of elephants. The youngest in the group, Shiju found himself dangerously close to the elephants and got surrounded.
Speaking to Times of India (ToI), the 19-year-old Shiju recalled that they were alerted about the presence of elephants only when the animals trumpeted. The boys panicked and began to run, but the 14-year-old got surrounded by one tusker and three female elephants. The boysâ€™ Alan and Sreejith attempted to divert the attention of the elephants but in vain. They began to run when the elephants began chasing them. The boys then climbed up trees, screaming for help.
The local fishermen on the Neyyar river heard their cries and came forward to assist. However, the elephants had by then already killed the boy and left. The incident took place around 1 pm and the police were informed after 3.30 pm.
The two survivors of the attack, Alan and Shreejith, suffered injuries and have been admitted to the government medical college hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.
The Neyyar forest range officer G Sandeep told ToI that the elephants might have been feeding on the reeds when the boys arrived at the spot. The officer opined that it is difficult to notice the elephants among the tall dense reeds as the animals often stand still when they sense human presence. Shiju's mother had passed away a couple of years ago and was being raised by his father. He was a student of class seven at Amboori.