Kuttiyamma was known to have killed hundreds of animals, including wild elephants, and sold the meat to meet the expenses of her family.

Shikkari Kuttiyamma considered Keralas first female hunter passes away at age 88
news Death Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 14:42

It requires a lot of bravery and fearlessness to be a hunter, and Kuttiyamma from Kerala was one such shikkari (hunter). Thresia Thomas (88), alias Kuttiyamma, who was considered the first woman hunter in Kerala, passed away on Monday evening due to age-related ailments. She was like a myth and the stories of her bravery were sung from Anchunadu Valley in Marayoor to other parts of Idukki.

Kuttiyamma, who has four siblings, comes from a family of hunters. It was in the 1950s that her family migrated from Palai in Kottayam to Marayoor in Idukki. She was just 17 when she reached Marayoor. At the time, she was studying in a convent at Raichur in Karnataka and she left her school to stay with her family.

She first entered the forest in Marayoor to meet the medical expenses of her brother, who was attacked by an Indian bison, also known as a gaur. The hospital authorities had sought money or meat of a wild animal to manage the expenses. In her first attempt, she killed a 800kg gaur using a rifle and went on to sell the meat.

Later, between 1950s and 1965, she went on to kill hundreds of wild elephants, gaurs and deer, including sambar deer, sold the meat at Marayoor market and managed the expenses of her family.

It was one of her brothers who taught her to hold a rifle and aim. During the period, there was no Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. The whole area was known as Anchunad hills or Marayoor hills. It was only in 1984 that the area was declared as the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Former Chinnar range officer VK Francis tells TNM that Kuttiyamma’s family-owned seven hectares of land at the Churulipatty area of the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Marayoor. “However, farming was not possible during the period due to attacks by wild animals,” he adds.

When the Central government passed the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Kuttiyamma and her family then engaged in farming of paddy and vegetables.

In 1993, the forest department took over the family’s land and promised to offer them a compensation of Rs 23 lakh. Kuttiyamma and her family then left to Anakkallu near Kanjirappally in Kottayam, says Francis.

The government, however, failed to provide the promised compensation amount. And so, in 2005, Kuttiyamma approached the High Court, which ordered the officials to pay the family the full amount along with interest.

Journalist MJ Babu talks about Kuttiyamma in his book titled ‘Kannan Devan Kunnukal' (The Hills of Kannan Devan). “Kuttiyamma engaged in hunting for the survival of their family. At the time, killing wild animals was not a crime. Kuttiyamma and her siblings lived in a cave for four years. They survived only on forest fruits and water,” read a portion of the book.

During the period, men feared her when she sold the meat of the animals she killed, writes Babu in his book.

“Once, she got a tiger cub from the forest and domesticated it at her house. Four months later, a forest official noticed this and advised her to leave the cub in the forest. After the Forest Protection Act was implemented, she not only took up farming but also engaged in forest protection activities," says an excerpt from the book.

Kuttiyamma is survived by her son VT Joseph and daughter-in-law Sherly. Her funeral will be held at Anakkal St Antony's Church in Kottayam on Tuesday at 3 pm.

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