By K. Umashanker
A herd 18 elephants from the Tamil Nadu forests that crossed into Kuppam at 1.30 a.m. on Saturday caused disruption in rail traffic on the Chennai-Bangalore section.
The man-animal conflict in Kuppam -- the tri-State junction leading to Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka -- took a new turn in the small hours of Saturday when a herd of 18 wild elephants emerged on the railway track, holding up movement of trains for an hour. The elephants destroyed crops along the railway track.
The forest officials and locals said that the herd from the Tamil Nadu forests crossed into Kuppam at 1.30 a.m., and started moving along the railway track at Mallur, near Kuppam railway station. The forest officials contacted the railway officials and asked them to slow down the rail traffic on the Chennai-Bangalore section.
The Kaveri Express was halted for about 15 minutes, allowing the pachyderms to cross the tracks. A couple of goods trains also were held up on the section. The officials at Jollarpettai railway junction were also informed about the movement of elephants.
The forest officials said that by Saturday morning, a herd of 11-elephants were spotted at Balla near Kuppam on the AP side, while another group had crossed into Tamil Nadu. Damage of crops was reported at long stretches in Avulanattam, Pathichenu, Kusuru and Puligunda hamlets.
The Divisional Forest Officer (Chittoor West), T. Chakrapani, rushed to Kuppam in the early hours to monitor the situation. About 80 personnel of the department, including watchers, trackers and beat officers spread into the vulnerable villages.
A senior official told The Hindu that in case of emergency, steps would be taken to deploy wildlife management experts to tackle the elephants. The proximity of the herd to the human habitations is causing worry among the officials and villagers.