Fear grips Kasaragod's Panathady village as wild elephant attacks rubber tapper

Representational image.

Kasaragod: A rubber tapper managed to flee and escaped with minor injuries when a lone wild elephant smacked him with its trunk and charged at him in Kasaragod's Panathady grama panchayat on Tuesday, April 9.

The elephant's slap threw T J Unni (31) three metres away, said his rescuer and fellow rubber tapper Suku P. "Unni landed on his chest, knees, and hands. Blood has clotted at the pelvis where the elephant slapped him," said Suku.

Forest officials have shifted him to the District Hospital for treatment. His hamlet Mottayam Kochi, on the fringes of the forest, is gripped in fear after the attack. "Elephants and monkeys destroy our crops but it is the first time an elephant has attacked a human in our village," said Panathady panchayat member N Vincent.

Unni's house is under construction and the water drawn from a spring uphill abruptly stopped. Around 40 houses depend on the spring, 4 km from Mottayam Kochi, for water. Residents often go in groups to check the cause of the disruption of water because of the fear of wild animals. "Usually monkeys chew the pipes midway to drink water or elephants vandalise them," said Suku.

But since Unni was building his house, he decided to urgently fix the pipe and trekked the hill alone in the morning. Around 1.5 km from his house, he encountered the elephant. After he was attacked, Unni ran around 300m down, where Suku was tapping rubber at Sivagiri Estate. "Unni was trembling and was not able to stand," he said. He was saved because the elephant did not chase him.

Suku called the 108 ambulance and took him on his scooter to Hill Highway at Palachal, 4 km away, from where the ambulance picked him up.

Unni's phone is lying at the place where he was attacked and his mother Marina's phone is switched off.

Around 10 years ago, the government set up a 13-km solar fence from Peruthady (Panathady) to Maruthom (Balal panchayat). "But it worked only for six months because the battery failed. Now there are only posts," said panchayat member Vincent.

He said the forest areas such as Thannikal, Mattakunnu, Mottayam Kochi, and Sivagiri in his panchayat were not monitored by Forest officials. "Our forest areas come under the Maruthom Forest Section in Balal panchayat. The office is at Parappa, 35 km away. This place is not accessible from Maruthom area," he said. If these areas are assigned to Panathur Forest Range, officials would be only 15km away and they can access the area, he said.

Three months ago, elephants created a scare at Ranipuram, the popular hill station in the panchayat. Collector Inbasekar K called a meeting of people's representatives, residents and forest officials. "I made a representation to re-establish the solar fence. Forest officials assured us too but the work has not started," Vincent said. "They said they are still counting the trees in the stretch," he said.

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