Shipping containers to replace two ration shops near Valparai to deal with rice-raiding elephants

Shipping containers to replace two ration shops near Valparai to deal with rice-raiding elephants

A ration shop damaged by wild elephants at Ettiyar in Manambolly forest range in the Valparai plateau.

A ration shop damaged by wild elephants at Ettiyar in Manambolly forest range in the Valparai plateau.
| Photo Credit: file picture

In a move to deal with wild elephants that damage ration shops in the Valparai plateau, Tamil Nadu Forest Department and the WWF-India are coming out with a novel solution – using old cargo containers.

As a pilot project, the department and WWF-India are currently working together to set up container ration shops at two places that fall under the Manambolly forest range of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) in the Valparai plateau.

One such shop will come up at Muthumudi while the second one will be at Thaimudi middle division, both tea estate areas that witness regular movement of wild elephants.

Sources in the know of the development said that container ration shops at the two places are planned to study the feasibility and how elephants react to these strong structures. If the model becomes a success, the department has plans to replicate it in other places in the plateau, where elephants damage ration shops, with the support of the Civil Supplies Department and non-governmental organisations.

They said that the WWF-India will fund the expense of setting up the container ration shops which will be placed on concrete pillars. The container shops will have steel windows and doors to withstand pressure from elephants.

Deputy Director (Pollachi division) Bhargava Teja said the department was studying how to add additional security features for these new ration shops, as setting up shipping containers alone might not help. Added features, including elephant-proof trenches around these containers, are being studied, he said.

Out of the 60-odd ration shops in the Valparai plateau, around 30 are situated in places that witness elephant movement. The plateau is known for large congregations of elephants, including the herds that come from Kerala, during the annual migration period between September and March. Elephants have damaged ration shops several times in the past.

“Following continuous damage of ration shops, mobile ration shops were introduced to deliver provisions to beneficiaries at their doorstep. However, this requires additional expense and manpower,” said a civil supplies official.

Manambolly forest range officer A. Manikandan said the reverse migration of elephants to the Kerala side had started and around 40 elephants were camping in estates.

Despite regular movement of elephants, the plateau has not reported human deaths as a result of negative interactions between humans and wild elephants since June 2021, due to joint efforts taken by the department and the Nature Conservation Foundation.

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