The Elephants in Thorapally

ArunMy name is Arunkumar and I work at the Shola Trust. Here I have written about the problem of elephants, tourists and jackfruit near Mudumalai.
Every year around jackfruit season, there is some elephant trouble at thorapally, a town near Mudumalai. It is on the highway, and lots of tourists come there. The main problem is that local people sell jackfruit in large quantities, so elephants come to eat it. Since there are lots of tourists, it becomes a very dangerous situation. Till now only one big elephant (called Barathan by local people) used to come. He was a makhna (male without tusks) and was very peaceful. After eating he used to go into Northern Hay RF also, and be there for some days, and then go back into Mudumalai. Now two others also come with him, and they are not peaceful so the situation is very dangerous.
The forest department tried to stop this problem by digging trenches on both sides of the road, but now the problem is worse. Before they used to come quietly through the forest, but now they walk along the main road and are not at all scared of people.Thorapally Elephants(Green line is tiger reserve border, and red line the the ‘elephant proof trench’)
Recently we had information that the elephants have started coming again. Hearing this, on May 27th Ramesh, Tarsh anna, and me went to Thorapally to take good photographs of the elephants and makes notes about the problem. The checkpost and highway closes at 9.00 pm, so we went at that time, but by then the local people told us two elephants had crossed the gate already and were hiding behind some buildings. For some time the guard tried to chase the elephants away, but after some time he gave up and opened the checkpost for them. One young tusker had come first, then when they chased him back he came back again with Barathan, and they both entered Thorapally.
We were walking along the main road, a bit scared to go away from it since two elephants were waiting. We walked up and down for about half an hour, but the two elephants did not come to the main road. Then one boy from Thorapally came on a bike riding fast to us and said one more elephant had come through the checkpost. He told Tarsh anna to come with him on the bike, and Ramesh and me went running behind.

When we reached there Tarsh anna was taking a photograph of the tusker which was standing behind the school. We thought we may not get good pictures with our camera since it was dark, but local fellows were busy taking pictures with their mobiles also. When more people gathered around, the elephant started moving slowly behind the bamboo.

Ele Behind school

The people from Thorapally knew that the elephant will come again through another way. We told them we are doing some research, but they didn’t believe and thought we came from Discovery Channel. They all made us run this side and that side saying it will come out here and there. But waste of time it did not come through the way they said. After ten minutes the tusker came near a lorry which was parked near the road. I had the bushnell camera trap with me, since it can take infrared videos in the night time. When all where looking at the elephant I slowly moved near the lorry and hid behind it and held out the camera to get a good video. When I was doing this Tarsh anna came slowly near me and climbed on the lorry, then Ramesh and me also got inside the lorry and got more pictures from very close. Slowly the local people and tourists started to disturb the elephant by shining light and throwing stones on the poor tusker whose eyes was full of tears. It was not a peaceful Elephant like Barathan and was very scared and angry. One cat when close and it chased it like anything. After that we decided to leave because we didn’t want the people to disturb the tusker too much. We slowly packed up from there and left.

Ele eating junk1

It was one elephant before, then it became three elephants, and last week (6th August), some local people and Tarsh anna saw seven males together of different ages, all coming together near thorapally. Elephants males don’t normally come together like that, but now they are coming since there is so much waste food available for them outside Mudumalai.

This problem is not going to stop now, and will only get worse. Tourists from Kerala see elephants walking on the road and think these elephants are also like those temple elephants. Soon some tourists will get killed and they will blame it on the elephants.Ele eating junk