Human-animal conflict: Kerala Forest Department releases poster on elephant body language

Representational image
Representational image

Thrissur: As human-animal conflicts are frequently reported in Kerala, the Forest and Wildlife Department has released a poster to create awareness about the body language of elephants, the most common trouble-maker.

Titled 'Elephant Behaviour at a Glance', the poster published on the department’s social media handles illustrates the most common characteristics of the elephants.

According to the poster, an elephant will be aggressive while in musth, so it is unsafe to approach the animal or provoke it. “While travelling in a vehicle, do not honk or switch off the engine. Maintain a safe distance,” the poster says.

The public is also urged to move to safe locations when there is information on wildlife entering settlements. Besides following instructions provided by the authorities, the public is also advised to not obstruct the activities of the experts.

Wayanad-based wildlife enthusiast KR Vancheeswaran says the behaviour of every elephant is different. He says wild elephants are peaceful, and they enter human habitats for food and drinking water when their forest is dry.

“Due to the heat, these animals will be already overstressed and when human-animal conflict takes place, things get ugly,” said Vancheeswaran, who is also a trainer with the Forest Department's eco-tourism initiatives. “If we keep a safe distance and respond according to the behaviour of the elephants, it makes things easier for both the wild animal and humans.”

Meanwhile, Jayachandran KM of the Vettilapara ward in the Athirappilly grama panchayat said that in addition to making posters, the Forest Department should try to learn about the changing nature of the forest and wild animals.

“We have been hearing that deforestation has resulted in multiple floods in Kerala. However, no one has made an effort to learn about the changes in the remaining forests due to the floods. When we talk to the tribespeople, they say there is enough food and water for the animals within the forest. However, the feedlots, meadows and streams these animals relied on, were either blocked or diverted in the floods. So, coming to the mainland is an easier way for them to get food and water. The state government and the forest department in particular should study this,” Jayachandran said.

Elephant body language:

  • If an elephant is flapping its ears gently, it indicates the animal is calm
  • If the trunk is raised, it shows the elephant is observing the surroundings
  • If the elephant stands still with ears extended, it has sensed that something is wrong
  • If the tail is erect (upward or downward), the animal is tensed
  • If the trunk is curled up and the elephant is charging, it is angry
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