The News beyond the Tusker’s death at Coimbatore
Tracker Project Turns Killer
Jumbo Dies as Foresters Get Basics Wrong
was the front page 4 lined headline in Coimbatore Edition of The New Indian Express on July 11, 2011.
Jumbo dies in botched collaring bid
was the third page lead story in The Deccan Chronicle.
Elephant tranquilised for radio collaring found dead
was the last page four coloumn story in The Hindu.
Radio Collaring goof leaves jumbo dead
was the front page 4 coloumn news in The Times of India.
Jumbos face the radio heat and Elephant Death puts Focus on Man Animal Conflict are other detailed supporting stories in the same daily.
Prominent Tamil Dailies too carried detailed reportage about this sad incident.
Follow -up on Tuesday (July 12, 2011)
Dinamani on Tuesday came out with a front page anchor about the toothless Hill Area Conservation Authority and disability of Officers in controlling the building violators in the fringes of the forest.
Follow up on Wednesday (July 13, 2011)
Almost all dailies carried the field investigation conducted by Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Inder Dhamija.
The New Indian Express came out with the statement:
Forest officials claimed that brick -kiln workers were making sound during the operation following which the jumbo got disturbed and moved in a different direction.
The Times of India came out with a detailed story, headlined
” Delay in locating tranquilised elephant resulted in its death”
on the investigation with following statements:
- “All necessary precautions were taken. There were some disturbances in the area where the brick kiln workers lived” - Investigation Officer Inder Dhamija.
- “Two other tuskers were in the same area. One of the elephant charged at them”.
- “One team initially went after the wrong elephant and had to return to the spot and search again”.
- “Operation was conducted by 30 members divided into 6 teams”.
- “It is believed that the elephant was responsible for at least four human deaths in that area”.
- “Elephant was found around 400 metres from the spot where it was tranquilised”.
Dinamani came out with human interest story -
The friend of the killed elephant, another tusker was seen standing for hours near the burial spot. It even damaged the house of at a brick kiln. It broke some trees too on tuesday”.
The Hindu has published a news item about City NGO’s submitting a petition to the District Collector to take action against those responsible for the death of the tusker. NGO’s have questioned why they were not informed and why was the post mortem done in a hurry.
Dinamalar has carried the representation of NGO’s in an elaborate coverage. The practice of not permitting NGO’s to see the postmortems in Coimbatore was raised in the memorandum to the Collector.
“Investigation officer not addressing the press despite their request” is also mentioned there in a detailed news item.
Politics wins over Science on Thursday (July 14, 2011).
An NGO from Chennai blames the radio collaring system. It has opined that it would have been safe if the team had consulted the great elephant experts named by them. One of the elephant scientist had approved a residential school at Kallar, Mettupalayam as a part of his Environmental Impact Assessment. Another scientist has joined hands with resort owners in the Masinagudi Corridor case.
Another local story tells” the farmer’s association view: “Elephant collaring is good. It is the need of the hour. Why are these wildlife enthusiasts opposing ?”
But the smaller NGO’s who have been demanding for an ethical postmortem in deaths of wild animals are on their own track. They have announced an agitation against the killing of elephant. They have sought permission from the police too. They did it on Friday at Red Cross, near Coimbatore Collectorate.
And as usual, the forest department remained tight lipped about the incident, giving way for negative news to spread like wildfire. In a way, remaining tight lipped was better instead of talking about constructing artificial tanks in the natural forest and taking efforts to include Coimbatore forests in UNESCO Heritage list - which is viewed by environmentalists as a mockery at this stage.
Rift amongst stake holders
It was clear on Friday (July 15, 2011) that there were two sides among different stake holders. A rift was seen among grass root techies (greens who use internet to spread environmental messages). One group demands for a detailed enquiry on the death and the other, “let us move forward on other core issues”. The first fissure appeared in one of the facebook groups.
Rift among the scientists was seen by the names suggested in Newspapers (press release from Chennai NGO) for not consulting few elephant ‘experts’.
And as usual few powerful persons started brokering with the warring groups saying that their action will affect ‘good‘ officers.
It is needless to say how the rift will be in the PRESS. Here too it is obvious.
Hence it is now clear - Who ever wins - loses.
Because we have lost an elephant, now the unity among stake holders to protect the forests is also melting away.
And then the ultimate winner is going to be the power centres who are always on a delay/denial/divert modes which paves way for easy misappropriation of projects.
What is behind these news?
A young tusker aged around 20 years breathed its last in the mid night of Saturday, July 9, 2011 at Thadagam in the Coimbatore Forest Division.
Prime reason: It ran amok after getting tranquilised by the Forest Department team which was involved in Radio Collaring the Elephants.
The operation, death and post mortem were all done in the dark. The majority of Media persons who received a call from the Forest officials to join the darting task on Saturday night did not attend. And those who went did not stay there for long and hence they totally missed all the action.
On Sunday morning after hearing the news about the death, all flocked at Thadagam but they were not informed about the spot. Only after four hours after intense search they found the site where the elephant was completely buried.
Disappointed Media had come out with different perspectives, and needless to say - most of them have raised voices against the forest department.
“The higher officials who had talked about acquiring UNESCO’s Heritage Status to these forests a day before were not available for their quotes”, was one of their grievance.
However a good thing happened this time, the NGO involved in this operation, World Wide Fund for Nature ( WWF) were bold enough to come out with a detailed statement of what had happened. Since it remains a responsible NGO they have shared even the minute details with the Media.
The Media persons who relied only upon govt. sources lost detailed scientific reporting because what they got from the government was a small piece of information and that too very late.
Thought lots of comments have appeared in the Media which needs to be addressed, I am highlighting only some of the facts on which I can work upon. Some inputs which came in the PRESS which will be of some use to nature enthusiasts:
5 ml (500 mg) of Xylazine was used for tranquilisation. The elephant on darting should normally stand and get into sleeping mode. The animal was however disturbed by a drunk in the brick kiln started hooting at it. It ran along a less used path and sank into a right lateral position on a sloping area, but with hip on the upper side.
The animal was detected approximately after 55 minutes of darting. Soon 10 ml of yohimbine hydrochloride was given. However the slow action of reversal drug was not sufficient to revive the animal.
SAD STORY CONTINUES:
While the death of the tusker left the nature enthusiasts in grief, there was a double blow to humans which added salt to the situation.
Daily Thanthi has covered them in detail:
A Kumki elephant killed a tribal of Erumaparai village near Top Slip in Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Dhilipan (22) is reported as a temporary staff of Forest Department is survived by his wife and a daughter. Two dailies have reported that Dilipan was ‘drunk‘. (I dont understand how the post mortem report is so quick to identify the deceased as ‘drunk’, while it gets delayed in other cases. This is just criminalising the victims).
Another person aged 75 was killed by a wild elephant in Gudalur, Nilgiris. His mistake, he had a jack fruit tree in his home! Here again the blame is on the victim.
Farmers too suffer:
Even after radio collaring an elephant in Thondamuthur, another set or same set of elephants have intruded into farmlands and damaged crops worth the livelihood of farmers - Daily Thanthi.
Statistics provided by The Times of India (July 11, 2011) about the Conflicts in Coimbatore.
Number of incidents of elephants straying into farm lands this year is 680 (Add one more, because I am really finding it difficult to get my crop damage claim registered with the Forest Department. I informed them on June 20, 2011 over phone. Flash News: Forester inspected my farm on Wednesday, July 13. Gave the documents to him) In 2010 it was 844 and in 2009 it was 560.
But many cases go unregistered because farmers find it difficult to register it as the loss will be less like one tree. They are afraid of spending more money as kickback when they are not sure about the compensation package.
Forest/Village Administration/Horticulture/Agriculture officials discourage them. Getting certificates from these officials is another issue. Original Chitta needs to be submitted. Updated Chitta has to be bought from Taluk Office.
But more than all these hassles, the trauma and fear about elephant attack is a big issue which never gets accounted. The mental agony goes unnoticed. Officers and pseudo environmentalists blame the farmers - Don’t cultivate Rice, Maize, Sugarcane, Coconut, Areca nut, Teak, Banana, Mango, Jack fruit, Ragi, Kambu, Cholam, Tomato … almost all the crops. Farmers do not have a lobby like Industries to claim for a SINGLE WINDOW SYSTEM for grievance redressal. There is no insurance scheme for Crop raiding by elephants.
Number of persons killed in elephant attack in Coimbatore:
2011 - 4.
2010 - 16.
Number of elephants killed by electrocution:
2011 - 0
2010 - 1 (This happened not in a farmers land but in a missionary place).
2009 - 2.
Solution not in sight:
To control the elephants from entering farm lands, trenches (EPT) were dug up initially. Since there was no big relief, Solar Powered Fences were erected. While contractors reaped the benefits, farmers were not relieved as the wires remain cut off in many places.
As a third measure, Radio collaring has come in. Now that process is in question?
Who will save our Farmers and Poor Villagers?
Who will save the Heritage Animal of India?
Who will control the uncontrollable tourism in the forest fringes?
Who will control the Hill Area Development Authority rule violators?
And two new threats in the forecast:
1. Tamil Nadu Government is to give poor villagers free cows and goats from September 15, 2011.
No doubt, it will help the poor.
But where will they get the green fodder ?
Already farmers have been stripped of their occupation because of disturbance from Wildlife. Elephants, Peafowls, Wild pigs and even Deers are found entering into agricultural lands for a tasty treat in Western Coimbatore.
Real Estates and Land grabbers (evident from the piling up of cases in TN) are making a quick buck by exploiting this situation.
Can the Forest Department control cattle from entering into the so called protected forests ?
2. The Coimbatore Master Plan - 2020 proposed by Local Planning Authority has earmarked many villages adjoining forest areas for industrial sites. When this gets implemented, man - animal conflict will rise up and ultimately wildlife is going to get wiped out.
It is learnt that Forest Department has raised objections for this. Their power just stops with that. It is for the civil society to think and proceed. We all know the power of industrial lobby. Though we are after jobs, we also need to think about who gives the water? - the forests or industries?
Saving our forests and its wildlife is securing our future.
Let our future not get into shambles like this genuine elephant collaring research turning sour for some unexpected flaws. Please think and react.
Suggestions/Critical Analysis welcome
After 7 days, dogs started eating the elephant carcass since the tusker was not given a deserving burial. Dinamalar came with an appealing note to Forest Department, to complete at least that formality in a proper way.
After 10 days, on July 19 the radio collared elephant raids a farm in Narasipuram. Farmer Chinnasamy escapes by a whisker.
And the sad story continues…