As Kerala slips into an unprecedented drought, wild animals have started raiding human settlements in search of water and food, endangering lives of people settled in fringe areas of the forest.
Last week three people were gored to death by elephant herds in separate incidents in the forested Idukki and Wayanad districts.
In the drought-hit Wayanad — the north Kerala district saw 72% deficit rainfall during the last two monsoons — people say besides elephants, other animals like, bison, deer and boars, made regular incursions into their villages.
Pepper plantation worker Nagappan, 34, was gored to death by a tusker three days ago in the district. About one-third of the district has forest cover.
According to forest officials, usually nearly 800 elephants are spotted along the Kabani riverbanks, a favourite summer habitat of jumbos in the Nilagiris, but this year their numbers dwindled to 120 as the river has partially dried up.
“Devoid of food and water, the elephant herds have become aggressive. Small crackers or fire torches fail to deter them these days. Bison and deer are behaving like domesticated animals,” said Velayudhan, a farm labourer of Thalappadi in Wayanad.
Another farmer in Ambalavayal said he lost crops worth Rs 2 lakh in the last three weeks as animals raided his farm.
“Two weeks ago, a tusker strayed almost seven km inside the human settlement.
We dug up 12 small ponds deep in the forest to check this menace,” said Wayanad district collector, BS Thirumeni.
Fed up with monkey menace, a 52-year-old widow had committed suicide in Thiruvananthapruam last week following which forest officials put up monkey traps in the area. Her relatives claimed she resorted to the extreme step after her frequent pleas fell on deaf ears.