The man who has been instrumental in reducing man-animal conflict among many other achievements was killed by a wild elephant on World Wildlife Day, March 3, in a cruel irony of fate.
45-year-old S Manikandan (IFS), who has been the Conservator of Forests and director of Nagarhole Tiger Reserve for two years along with other officers went inside the forests of Dodda Byranakuppe by the Kabini backwaters to inspect a minor forest fire.
Reports suggest that Manikandan was briefing his colleagues about the situation when a lone tusker charged at them from behind. While trying to escape, he lost his balance and was trampled by the elephant. Another officer in the group, RFO Subramanya, sustained minor injuries, reports The News Minute.
He was rushed to the HD Kote hospital where he was declared brought dead. His mortal remains have been sent to Madurai. Because of his brave service of so many years, Karnataka government presented him with state honours.
Manikandan has previously served in Ballari, Bidar, Raichur and had even been part of the BMTC as the conservator and director (IT) in Bengaluru.
He was a student of Agricultural Science from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. He then went on to pursue Masters and then Ph.D in Agricultural Entomology. Before securing a rank in the IFS, he served as a faculty in the Institute of Wood Science and Technology for a brief period, reported The News Minute.
He has worked extensively to reduce cattle smuggling and elephant killing. Manikandan, who hailed from Tamil Nadu’s Theni district, was known among villagers for his efforts in conserving nature and reducing man-animal conflict.
Questions raised on fire safety protocols
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Punnati Sridhar told The News Minute, “This is an extremely unfortunate incident. He was a sincere, honest, hardworking officer. More than that, he was totally committed to conservation. He contained most of the problems in Nagarhole. Earlier too he did an excellent job in Ballari despite political pressure. He would go only by the rulebook.”
“He was very good with people, and also bridged the gap between the locals and the department,” Sridhar added.
“Yesterday’s incident was unfortunate. These are hazards which are part of the job. Yes, there were no weapons with them but it’s hard to say if that would have helped. It was a sudden attack by a lone male elephant. There must have been a strong camouflage… we usually keep a distance from wild animals. I would not say there was any neglect on anyone’s part, but I have sought a report,” he said.
“It is by God’s grace that the RFO was spared and unfortunately Manikandan slipped. These sort of incidents happen in the wild despite all precautions. It was a core area, it was only because there was a fire that he had gone to inspect,” he explained.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, former CM Yeddyurappa and President Ramnath Kovind tweeted messages of condolences to his family while Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palaniswami gave a media statement.