Greens demand care, food for Munnar's 'people-friendly' Padayappa

K Bulbendran, Wild tusker Padayappa. Photo: Special arrangement

Idukki: Environmental activist here have come out demanding protection for the ageing ‘people-friendly’ wild jumbo Padayappa that often is found roaming in the human habitats in the Munnar-Mattupetti region. They say the jumbo with its unique long and curvy tusks is a major tourist attraction and considering its age, the Forest Department should put in place a rapid response team (RRT) to keep track of the elephant.

“The jumbo, aged nearly 60 years, could not be shifted to any forest as the young tuskers will attack the ‘towny’ animal. That would put his life in danger. Our organisation, Green Care Kerala (GCK), has officially sent a demand to the chief wildlife warden in Thiruvanathapuram to give special attention to the pachyderm. The main reason to submit such a representation is that ‘Padayappa’ is now often seen in the human habitats and people are trying to provoke the jumbo by honking from close range,” K Bulbendran, district secretary of GCK said.

Padayappa is called a 'human-friendly' jumbo as it has not yet attacked anyone in the region. But it raids the wayside temporary shops in search of fruits and vegetables usually.

Bulbendran said GCK was not calling for a translocation or shifting of ‘Padayappa’ to an elephant sanctuary. “Of late ‘Padayappa’ which normally eats pineapple, carrot, watermelons, tender coconuts and jack fruit is seen thrashing ration shops and eating raw rice. Recently, the jumbo had broken a ration shop at Periyakkanal near Munnar. This shows desperation of the animal,” said Bulbendran, who is also a member of the district-level human-animal conflict mitigation co-ordination committee.

He said that he would be raising the demands in the committee meeting scheduled to be held on Friday. However, the idea of feeding Padayappa has been played down by the officials of the Forest department in Munnar range. They say that as a wild animal ‘Padayappa’ has its natural food habits and life cycle. “We can’t buy the argument put forth to feed a wild jumbo. The exact age of ‘Padayappa’ is unknown and it is a jumbo which has grown up in the estates and small forests in the Munnar region and will continue to lead the same life,” Munnar range officer Arun Maharaj said.

He said that a group of watchers were already posted to keep a tab on wild jumbos that enter residential places in the Munnar region and during the morning and the evening regular instructions were given to them.

The Jumbo also embarks on its ‘annual tour’ to the Maruyur side till Thalayar – Pambanmala that begins in June and it returns to its Munnar abode in August. During these yearly outings, it is usual for the jumbo to trespass into the vegetable farms on its way, to feast on cabbage, carrot, and butter beans grown there. The other usual path of the jumbo is to cross the Mattupetty Dam by swimming across its reservoir to reach the Gundumala and Thenmala areas.

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