A Conflict Tale from Valparai, Tamil Nadu

Chandrashekar Sundaram


Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

While many people in the south Indian plantation hill town of Valparai have become more aware and enlightened about dealing with elephants, others are cruel and provocative, leading to unfortunate incidents of conflict and deaths.

On 26th August, 2017, we were roaming around Valparai looking for wildlife, we came across an incidence of Human-Elephant conflict. We could sense some commotion near the sheds of some estate workers, and saw people running here and there. Upon checking, we heard that a female elephant had entered the premises of one of the workers and was polishing off a plantain tree.

There appeared to be two groups of people at the scene – one, consisting mostly of youth, was trying to trouble the elephant; the other group consisted of those who were trying to persuade the first group to leave the elephant alone to eat peacefully. The latter were convinced that, after feeding, the elephant would move away of its own volition. The first group would not listen however, and started to shout and throw small crackers on the animal despite strong objections from group two. Although the elephant was initially calm, the provocation caused her to lose her temper and charge at the crowd. The chase was brief,  but I guess she made her point. She then moved further inside the habitation, bringing down a jack fruit tree on the way.

The story doesn’t end there. To my utter disbelief, I read the sad news of the death of the same elephant the next day, after it was chased into the forest by kumkis of the Forest Department. Apparently the elephant had trampled an unfortunate old man, which prompted the FD to step in. I don’t know what caused her death, but clearly she was a victim of conflict.

The irony? All this took place even as people were celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi.

See related news article: Wild elephant dies during capture operation in Valparai.

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About the author

Chandrashekar Sundaram

The author is a Chennai-based nature and wildlife photographer.


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