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Elephants in Mudumalai National Park in India (Wikimedia/Anvesh Sharma)

The head of the Syro-Malabar Church based in India’s southern Kerala has criticised the state government following the death of 14 people, including Christians, in wild animal attacks this year. Source: UCA News.

“Some people give more importance to wild animals than humans,” said Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil in his address while leading Palm Sunday services in Mananthavadi diocese, which covers the hilly Wayanad district.

Church leaders have been urging the Communist-led state government to take “serious steps” to protect the lives of people living in the periphery of the forested hills after animal attacks increased. 

Reports say wild animals, particularly elephants, start entering human habitats seeking water and food as forest resources dry up in the four-month-long summer starting in February.

Some 22 percent of this northern district’s estimated one million people are Christians, mostly members of the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church, who migrated from central Kerala about seven decades ago.

“Migrant families are not robbers of forest resources. They are people who work hard and produce food and they deserve consideration,” Major Archbishop Thattil said.

The following day, the prelate visited the grieving family of 42-year-old Ajeesh Panachiyil, who was trampled to death by an elephant outside his house in the district on February 10.

Major Archbishop Thattil later told the local media that he was concerned about the safety of people, especially the migrant families who live in the periphery of forests.

Kerala borders the Western Ghats, a range of mountains along the western coast of India that has about 10,000, or about 25 per cent, of the world’s wild Asian elephants, according to official records.

“We have stringent laws to protect wildlife but when it comes to human-animal conflict, humans are less protected,” Major Archbishop Thattil said.

The prelate said that human habitats “are fast becoming unsafe for living” and added he was “sceptical” about the measures being taken by the government to protect them.

Government data shows during the reporting year of 2022-23, the state recorded 8873 cases of wild animal attacks. Elephant attacks topped the list with 4193 cases. 


Indian Church head slams govt over rising elephant attacks (UCA News)