A wild elephant claimed the life of a 67-year old British tourist, Colin Manvell from London, on Thursday evening in the forest reserves in Nilgiris, when he used a flash to take a picture of the elephant.
Two tour guides accompanying him escaped the wrath of the pachyderm and were later taken into custody by police for questioning.
Initially the duo denied that they went into prohibited forest reserve, but later admitted that they accompanied the British tourist, police sources said on Friday.
Wildlife experts lament that illegal tour operators often lead the unsuspecting tourists into areas that they should not and expose them to the danger of the wild animals.
Elephant Rajendran, who has taken up the cause of the elephants in a spate of cases in different courts, hoped that the killing of the British tourist would serve as an eye-opener and the authorities would come down heavily on illegal resorts and tour operators in the forest reserves.
Incidentally, in 2009 a French lady tourist was killed in the similar manner. Colin had hired two tour guides – Robin from Kochi and Kumar a local – and went into Singara Reserve Forest near Masinangudi (470 kms from Chennai) for a trek. Robin is said to have facilitated similar trips by Colin on several previous occasions.
When Manvell spotted the elephant, he took out his camera and began taking pictures. The flashlight of the camera apparently disturbed the elephant and it attacked the trio. The wild elephant struck Manvell with its trunk, injuring him on his head and chest.
The two guides escaped and hid in the bushes nearby. After sometime they returned with some help from the resort, only to find the lifeless body of the British national. They took it to local Gudalur Government Hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
“The guides should not have gone into the reserve forest but stuck to familiar trekking trails,” district foreign officer Sugeetharaj Koilpillai said. “We will charge the duo with trespassing and abetment (for facilitating the illegal visit of Colin to reserve forest area that is prohibited area),” the forest officer told Hindustan Times. However, the punishment for trespassing is very minimal and they could be let off with a fine and or a warning, said forest department sources.
“They have not yet been arrested, police said. For the present the two are very shaken. “We will decide if they are to be charged with negligence,” police inspector F Paulraj said.