Jumbo threat forces govt to curtail estate operations

Periodic encounters with wild jumbos have forced villagers and workers of government tea plantations in Valparai to quit their jobs. So much so, the human-elephant conflict that led to the death of three women workers last year, has forced the state to wind up its tea estate operations in about 127.95 hectares of identified, vulnerable, Ryan division.

The managing director of Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation Limited (Tantea), in a recent letter to the government, has disclosed that Ryan division currently as only 580 workers, against the required strength of 720, and the revenue loss will increase due to the migration of workers to the plains.

Besides the revenue loss, human lives were under threat.
Forest secretary C.V. Shankar recently passed orders facilitating to hand over the vulnerable areas (127.95 ha) of Ryan tea division back to the forest department.
Welcoming the government order, Mr M. Ananda Kumar, scientist, Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), said the move would benefit humans and jumbos. “From 1994 to 2012, so far, nine people have died in the Ryan division alone due to accidental wildlife encounters and the particular area is an important elephant corridor,” he said. NCF said most accidents occur as the public take shortcuts in the forest areas and encounter jumbos.
According to local wildlife sources, almost 25 per cent of human–elephant conflicts in the Valparai area are recorded from Ryan division though it occupies less than 2 per cent of the plantation landscape.
“Panicked over the frequent deaths of their colleagues because of wild elephants and due to tough living conditions, workers prefer to work in the plains” said Mr Mohammad Hamsa, a resident of Chinnakallar, Valparai.

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