Elephant showers, viewing screens found in school at elephant corridor during inspection in Nilgiris

Members of the Sigur Elephant Corridor Inquiry Committee at an inspection of a farm-cum-residence in the notified elephant corridor in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. File

Members of the Sigur Elephant Corridor Inquiry Committee at an inspection of a farm-cum-residence in the notified elephant corridor in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. File
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

All-terrain vehicles, watchtowers, an “elephant” shower to entice pachyderms and a viewing screen inside a building — these were some of the “anomalies” noted by the Sigur Elephant Corridor Inquiry Committee in a private school in the notified elephant corridor in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) recently.

The court-appointed technical committee, headed by retired judge K. Venkatraman, had inspected the school as well as 40 other locations earlier this week. During the inspection, the school, which is situated in the buffer zone of the tiger reserve and models itself as a “tribal school,” was found to have a few watchtowers, viewing screens and a specially designed shower that activists believe helps attract passing elephants.

The revenue department is also claiming that the school encroaches on around 1,200 square meters of revenue land, while the Forest department has also requested the survey department to demarcate government lands and see if they coincide with the patta claimed by the owners of the school.

N. Sadiq Ali, Founder of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT), had stated that when there had been calls to capture a wild elephant, known locally as ‘Rivaldo’, that he and other animal rights activists had informed the forest department that the school authorities had been responsible in large part for transforming the behavior of the animal and had made it reliant on people for food.

“The forest department should launch an investigation as to what purposes this infrastructure is serving in the school, and even if there is a slight doubt that animals are being attracted to the area, then they should ask the school to remove it,” said Mr. Sadiq.

The conservationist said that such initiatives to attract elephants could bring the animals in close proximity to humans and lead to more negative human-animal interactions in the region.

Forest department officials, when contacted, remained tight-lipped about their findings at the school, stating that it was up to the inquiry committee to decide on whether the infrastructure at the school constituted an offense. The Sigur elephant corridor inquiry committee inspected 41 locations over a two-day period, including areas which the government claims are encroachments made by private individuals.

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