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India to build ‘elephant-proof’ walls after hundreds protest against animal attacks in southern state

Residents have demonstrated against these animal attacks and blamed the state government for failing to protect them

Maroosha Muzaffar
Friday 23 February 2024 16:14 GMT
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FILE: Biker narrowly escapes rampaging elephant

India’s federal government has announced plans to construct elephant-proof barriers in Kerala in response to attacks by the animals, which have led to protests by residents in the southern state.

Federal environment minister Bhupender Yadav, during his visit to the region, announced plans to construct elephant-proof walls even as he criticised the state government for neglecting the issue.

To avoid more elephant attacks, residents of Wayanad in Kerala are demanding solar-powered fencing, elephant-proof trenches, early warning systems, radio-collaring of wild elephants, and the creation of wildlife corridors.

Earlier this month, a man was trampled to death by a radio-collared wild elephant. This marked the second such death in the district in three weeks. Six days after the first incident, a 50-year-old worker at a state-owned eco-tourism project was killed by another wild elephant while on duty in Pulpally.

Residents have since then demonstrated against these animal attacks and blamed the state government for failing to protect them.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition from the Congress party and parliamentary representative for the Wayanad constituency, also travelled to the state on Sunday to visit the families of victims of animal attacks.

The state government also convened a meeting with all parties and pledged to pay for the medical treatment of those impacted by these attacks.

According to The Indian Express, across Kerala there’s been a significant rise in attacks on humans by wild animals, notably by elephants, tigers, bison, and wild boars.

The districts of Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad, and Idukki are particularly affected, it said.

In the 2022-23 period, the state government statistics documented 8,873 incidents of wild animal attacks.

Elephants were responsible for 4,193 of these, wild boars for 1,524, tigers for 193, leopards for 244, and bison for 32.

Among the 98 fatalities recorded, 27 were attributed to elephant attacks.

These encounters not only threaten human safety but also have severely impacted Kerala’s agricultural sector. Between 2017 and 2023, wildlife caused 20,957 instances of crop destruction and resulted in the deaths of 1,559 domestic animals, primarily cattle.

Over the past ten years, Wayanad in Kerala has witnessed the loss of 41 lives to elephant attacks and seven to tiger attacks.

Kerala has been trying to mitigate the human-wildlife conflict. In 2022-23, Kerala maintained some 100 miles of elephant-proof trenches, around 25 miles of solar fencing, and 150 miles of compound walls. However, these efforts aren’t enough, local media sources have said.

To prevent animals from straying into human settlements, Kerala has initiated eco-restoration projects and a programme to buy land from farmers to convert it into forest.

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