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Increasing man-animal conflict in Kerala’s forests sends wrong message: Forest official

The official's response came in the backdrop of two cases being lodged by the Forest department under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Kerala Forest Act against the vlogger for illegally trespassing into a reserved forest and provoking a wild elephant by taking her helicam close to it.

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In view of the increasing man-wild animal conflict in Kerala’s forest areas, incidents like trespassing into a reserved forest, provoking the wildlife there — as done by a woman vlogger several months ago — for publicity sends a wrong social message and also results in animals viewing humans as enemy, a top forest official of the district said on Tuesday.

The official’s response came in the backdrop of two cases being lodged by the Forest department under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Kerala Forest Act against the vlogger for illegally trespassing into a reserved forest and provoking a wild elephant by taking her helicam close to it.

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The enraged animal had chased after, but she managed to escape with her life, according to the visuals shown on TV channels. The forest official told PTI the incident was being viewed very seriously taking into account ”the increasing man-animal conflict in various parts of Kerala” and the fact that going close to wild animals using a helicam — as done by the woman — would agitate them and make them view all humans as a threat.

”Usually the elephants would avoid humans and move back into their natural habitat. But when it gets agitated due to such human activities as in the instant case, they will attack any human they come across. They will see all humans as enemies,” he said.

Referring to the instant incident, the official said that what the woman did was for ”cheap popularity and money”, but the action taken by the Forest department was not for publicity but to send a message to society so that it acts as a lesson to others.

The woman had illegally entered Mampazhathara forest region in Kollam district, recorded movements of elephants using a helicam and also sent her helicam near one of the pachyderms, prompting it to charge her, the official said.

Another senior forest official, who is investigating the matter, said that they came to know about what had happened as more and more people from far off places turned up at the reserved forest to see elephants.

”On trying to find out the source of the people’s information, we came to know of the video uploaded on Youtube by the vlogger. After the case was registered against her, she made the video private, but did not delete it. ”She is also absconding since then and has not appeared before the investigating officer on July 11 as instructed in a notice sent to her,” he said.

The official said that since she was a vlogger, a woman and in view of the public interest involved the department did not take any sudden decision to immediately arrest and took a liberal approach by sending her a notice to appear before it.

However, since she has been absconding since then, ”the next step is to arrest her”, the investigating officer said and added that the help of the cyber cell of police has been sought to locate her.

Giving details of the two cases against her, he said that one is under the Wildlife Protection Act and the other under the Kerala Forest Act and in both cases the offences are non-bailable.

The charges against her include illegal entry into a reserved forest, entering the habitat of a wild animal and provoking or teasing it and entering the forest without taking any precautionary measures and carrying out actions which could lead to dangerous consequences, the official said.

He also said that her actions sent out ”a wrong social message”.

He further said that if the woman moves an anticipatory bail in the Kerala High Court it would be strenuously opposed by the Forest department. The investigating officer said that there was a possibility she would move the high court for anticipatory bail as someone claiming to be her lawyer had called asking whether she would be granted bail by the investigating officer (IO) if she surrendered before him.

Since the provisions invoked against her are non-bailable, we told him that the IO cannot grant bail.

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