Periyar National Park located in Kerala, India. The main attraction of the park is the Indian the elephants and the tigers.

Meet Arikomban - The Rice Eating Elephant

By Tushar : [22/Jan/24] Arikomban, a term derived from the Malayalam words 'Ari' meaning rice and 'komban' meaning tusker, unfolds the tale of an elephant captivated by an unusual obsession with rice. Arikomban, a male wild elephant, possesses a mysterious demeanour and has been a notorious figure in Chinnakanal and near Santhanpara in Kerala's Idukki district for nearly two decades. This tusker gained infamy for its relentless pursuit of rice, frequently raiding homes and shops in its original habitat of Chinnakanal near Munnar. The tribal settlement known as 301 Colony became the rogue tusker's preferred hunting ground, causing extensive damage to numerous houses and shops over the years, resulting in ten tragic deaths. Arikomban stands out as perhaps the only rogue elephant in India targeted by three capture operations. Despite being caught and relocated deep inside forests, it consistently returns to human settlements.

The origins of Arikomban's peculiar fondness for rice remain unknown, but the elephant has been raiding houses and shops since at least 2017. Calls for Arikomban's capture intensified in late 2022 as its daily raids on homes and shops became more pronounced. Under mounting pressure, the Kerala government ordered its capture in March 2023. However, animal lovers challenged the decision in the Kerala High Court, which ruled in favour of capturing Arikomban but stipulated that the elephant should not be kept in captivity. Instead, it should be radio-collared and relocated to another forest.

elephants rice eating

The failed attempt of Arikomban’s translocation

An expert committee appointed by the High Court recommended relocating Arikomban to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Palakkad district, more than 250 km away from Chinnakanal. This decision sparked protests from the local community. Approximately forty days after the Kerala government's directive to capture Arikomban, on April 29, the elephant was tranquilized and transported. Contrary to the initial plan of moving it to Parambikulam, Arikomban was instead relocated to the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Idukki district, just over a hundred kilometers from Chinnakanal.

Despite expert warnings that Arikomban might attempt to return to its original habitat in such proximity, the Kerala Forest Department was optimistic about managing the elephant in its new environment. However, shortly after being released into the wild, Arikomban ventured into a forest on the Tamil Nadu side, raising concerns about a potential return to Chinnakanal. Contrary to expectations, after spending almost a week in Meghamalai, Arikomban returned to the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It made two unsuccessful attempts to enter human settlements near Kumily town in Kerala, prompting authorities to chase it back into the forest.

Recurring mischiefs of Arikomban

In under two weeks of its relocation to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Arikomban was spotted attempting to break into a ration shop at Manalar, having detected the store of rice from almost 20 km away. This raised concerns among locals who feared potential raids on their homes. On May 27, Arikomban entered Cumbum town, causing chaos by smashing two auto-rickshaws and bikes. This disruptive incident quickly rendered him unwelcome once again.

Captivation of Arikomban by Tamil Nadu Government

During the early hours of June 5, Arikomban underwent tranquilization and was subsequently guided into a truck by three kumkis. The journey covered a distance of 250 km to the upper Kothayar area of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district. This intricate operation spanned approximately 24 hours to accomplish.

A short note on Periyar National Park

Periyar National Park, situated in the Idukki district of Kerala, is a captivating wildlife sanctuary renowned for its lush greenery and diverse fauna. The park surrounds the picturesque Periyar Lake, offering a unique setting for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Visitors can explore the park's rich biodiversity, including elephants, tigers, and a myriad of bird species. For a more immersive experience, Periyar National Park provides exciting Jeep safari opportunities. Periyar Jeep Safari Booking allows visitors to traverse the park's rugged terrains, increasing the chances of spotting elusive wildlife in their natural habitat. It's a thrilling way to engage with the beauty and wildlife diversity that Periyar National Park has to offer.