K.M. Chinnappa was quoted in the Karnataka News expressing his fears about the future of elephants, just as he expressed them to us in "Elephants in the Coffee."
Chinnappa has long been a defender of elephants, and I mean that quite literally. When he became a forest warden in the 1970s, the forests of southern India had a great number of poachers. As he tells it, he and other wardens shot poachers to prevent them from harming elephants and other wild animals.
This strategy of shooting poachers rather than try to take them to court has been adopted in other areas where endangered species are being killed for profit. We spoke with a former special forces officer who trains game wardens to fight poachers in Kruger National Park in South Africa. The battle for the lives of rhinos and elephants there is so violent that dozens of rangers have been killed. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, more than 1,000 forest rangers world-wide have been killed fighting poachers over the past 10 years.
Chinnappa was one of the rangers who early-on took a hard line against poachers. Now, with the greatest threat to elephants in India being agricultural conflicts, Chinnappa is taking a hard line again.
Here is what Chinnappa told a gathering recently, according to the Karnataka News:
"The number of elephants is diminishing in the state. Apart from this, usually the female elephants used to be seen in groups but now single female elephants are seen roaming in the forest. When it is pregnant, if there is no proper companion the elephants become vulnerable. In last ten years in Karnataka state alone, 201 elephants have died. If this is the statistics of the Karnataka state think about Tamil Nadu and Kerala," he said adding that there is a need to conserve elephants because with the existence of elephants the forest cover will be good and since the elephants reproduce only once in six to seven years, there is need to protect their numbers.
Chinnappa is calling for curbing forest fire completely. In addition, he wants elephants provided with 5,000 square kilometers of Nilgiri Biosphere reserve consolidated exclusively for the animals. They must be kept away from human interference and provided with adequate water and natural food so that their numbers increase, he said.
The retired ranger also wants farmers to be compensated quickly whenever there is elephant damage to crops or structures.
Othewise, Chinnappa fears, the elephant will be gone from the area within 50 years.
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Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College