“I’m afraid the elephant that killed my father could come back to attack again,” says 13-year-old Alna Joseph.

On February 10th, Ms. Joseph was coming back from morning prayers at her village church in Mananthavady town, in the hilly Wayanad district of Kerala, India. She saw a vehicle carrying a man who was bleeding.

When she got home, she found out it was her father, Ajeesh Joseph, a 42-year-old farmer, who had been trampled to death by a wild elephant wearing a radio collar. This was the second such death in the district in three weeks.

When the local hospital confirmed her father’s death, protests started in the town. They stopped only after the authorities promised 1 million rupees ($12,067, £9,525) in compensation for Joseph’s family and a job for his widow.

India, a wave of outrage and concern has swept through the town of Malappuram following a series of tragic elephant attacks that have left residents shaken and demanding action from authorities. The incidents, which have claimed lives and caused widespread destruction, have prompted residents to take to the streets in protest, calling for measures to address the escalating human-elephant conflict.

For years, Kerala has grappled with the challenge of balancing human development with the preservation of its rich biodiversity, including its elephant population. However, recent events have brought the issue to the forefront of public consciousness, highlighting the urgent need for sustainable solutions to mitigate conflict and ensure the safety of both humans and elephants.

The catalyst for the protests was a string of deadly encounters between humans and elephants in and around Malappuram. In one particularly tragic incident, a wild elephant trampled a woman to death as she was working in her field, leaving her family and community in mourning. Subsequent attacks, including crop raids and property damage, have only deepened the sense of fear and frustration among residents.

“The situation has become unbearable. We live in constant fear of elephant attacks, and the authorities seem powerless to protect us,” lamented Rajesh Kumar, a resident of Malappuram. “We demand immediate action to address this crisis before more lives are lost.”

The protests in Malappuram have drawn attention to the broader issue of human-elephant conflict in Kerala, where rapid urbanization, encroachment into forested areas, and habitat loss have increasingly brought humans and elephants into conflict. Experts warn that unless proactive measures are taken to address the root causes of the conflict, such as habitat fragmentation and lack of adequate elephant corridors, the situation is likely to worsen in the coming years.

“The recent spate of elephant attacks is a stark reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate human-elephant conflict,” emphasized Dr. Priya Menon, an environmental scientist. “This requires not only measures to protect human lives and property but also efforts to safeguard elephant habitats and promote coexistence between humans and wildlife.”

In response to the protests, local authorities have pledged to take action to address the concerns of residents and mitigate the risk of future elephant attacks. This includes steps such as deploying trained personnel to monitor elephant movements, implementing early warning systems to alert residents of potential encounters, and exploring long-term solutions to reduce human-elephant conflict.

“While there are no easy solutions to the complex challenges posed by human-elephant conflict, we are committed to working closely with local communities and conservation experts to find sustainable ways to coexist with elephants,” assured District Collector Anjali Menon. “Together, we can create a future where both humans and elephants can thrive in harmony.”

As the protests continue and calls for action grow louder, the people of Malappuram and Kerala are united in their determination to find lasting solutions to the pressing issue of human-elephant conflict, ensuring the safety and well-being of all who call this vibrant state home.

Published: 23rd Feb 2024

Also Read:

Alabama IVF Ruling: A Political Gift for Democrats, Headache for Republicans
Sydney asbestos scare: How a mulch discovery has sent a city scrambling
Luxury Aurus Car Gifted to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un