Wild elephant Chinnathambi was released into the Anamalai forest range near Topslip but managed to make his way back to Tiruppur recently.

No intention to turn Chinnathambi into a kumki TN Forest Dept to Madras HC
news Wildlife Tuesday, February 05, 2019 - 15:38

Contrary to what was being emphasised by Tamil Nadu’s Forest Minister Dindigul Srinivasan, Tamil Nadu’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests has assured the Madras High Court that the Forest Department has no intention to convert Chinnathambi elephant into a kumki.

His assurance came on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which was filed by Arun Prasanna, a wildlife activist. The petition was filed after Minister Dindigul Srinivasan recently said that Chinnathambi, the elephant which was released in the Anamalai forest range near Topslip returned to the village, will be captured and tamed into a ‘kumki’ elephant.

Steps must be taken to protect Indian elephants

In his petition, Arun Prasanna had explained in detail the status of elephants as a species in India and also the process of converting a wild elephant into a kumki elephant.

“It is a well-known fact that the male:female ratio amongst wild elephants is about 1:122 as per 1990 data. More recent data indicates that this skewed ratio has taken a turn for the worse, and therefore it has become imperative to protect the males. Elephants are a critically endangered species listed as Scheduled I animal as per Wildlife Protection Act 1972,” read the petition. The petition also accused the Forest Department and the state government of destroying the species.

Describing the fate met by another wild elephant in the area, Madukkarai Maharaj, which died during the process of taming it into a kumki elephant, the petition stated that the process of taming a wild elephant involves cruel treatment of the animal including confining it inside a wooden box called a ‘kraal’. “After confining the animal into a kraal, the process of 'taming' it begins. The animal is chained, beaten and tortured by numerous people for several months in order to break the wild spirit of the animal and force it to obey orders of human beings,” read the petition.  

Arun Prasanna further sought the court to direct the Forest Department to frame suitable guidelines for elephant translocation and rehabilitation.

This petition was heard by a division bench consisting of justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad on Monday. The counsel who represented the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests submitted in the court that capturing the animal would be a last resort move by the department. Stating that not every elephant can be successfully converted into a kumki, the Forest Department submitted that right now efforts are being taken to protect the people from the elephant. Hence there is no intention as of now to turn Chinnathambi into a kumki, the counsel said.

The judges, after hearing the submissions from both the sides, stated that it is worrying that JCBs are being used to lift the elephants and also mentioned about the injuries suffered by the elephant. Ordering the government of Tamil Nadu to respond, the judges posted the next hearing on the case to February 11.

Background

Chinnathambi, a 25-year-old wild elephant, was captured on January 26 from the Thadagam area in the outskirts of Coimbatore. The animal was captured following frequent complaints from the villagers in that locality saying that the elephant was causing damage to crops. The Forest Department finally had to intervene and capture Chinnathambi. The elephant was then released into the Anamalai forest range near Topslip.

The elephant, however, came back into a village near Pollachi three days back and has been roaming in Tiruppur district. As on Monday, Chinnathambi was stationary inside a sugar mill in Tiruppur and his food and sleep cycles were normal, Tiruppur District Forest Officer told TNM. He had also added that Chinnathambi was not causing any disturbance to the people in the area and had befriended the kumki elephant which was brought, to drive Chinnathambi back into the forest range.

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