Anakulam (Elephant Pond) – A unique and enchanting reserve forest in the Western Ghats of Idukki District, Kerala

By T. L. John

Anakulam is a small hamlet known for viewing elephants in Idukki District of Kerala, India. Even though Idukki is the second largest district in area, it has the lowest population density. It is linked with the Western Ghats and has a vast forest reserve area. Its undulating terrain and hills are covered by serene valleys with various varieties of trees and herbal medicinal plants. Its enchanting beauty lies in its lush green nature and animal kingdom.

Anakulam is a human inhabited area coupled with the scenic beauty of reserve forests and two tributaries of Periyar river, called Ittacholayaar and Nallathanniyar. During summer, elephant herds can be viewed within a distance of 45-50 metres from the road side of Anakulam village. The serenity and the adequate availability of stream water of Ittacholayaar attract the elephant herds which usually come to the stream water only after 6 o’clock in the evening. Very rarely do they come in during day time and they never take bath in this river water. It is a mystery which has not yet been unfolded even to the researchers.

After consuming water they snort, grunt, trumpet and fight each other like drunkards. By this time the viewers would have left the place fearfully. So far no case has been reported on elephants attacking the viewers. We can see all these wild actions by the light erected in the centre of the Anakulam junction. Once they reach the river bank, the elephants stay for a few hours or even until midnight. Occasionally, another herd can also be seen heading towards the bank for drinking water. But they wait until the former group leaves. The elephants with calves do not spent much time here. They leave after consuming water to their destination in a placid mood.

Though the human settlement is close to this river, this has not caused any disturbance to the coming of wild elephants so far. Likewise the elephants do not pose any threat to the settlement area. But the place becomes noisy and disturbed by the flow of tourists. They flash the headlights of their vehicles to get a clearview of the elephants. “We can’t say when the animals will get provoked, especially the tuskers. We fear such actions of the visitors may lead to a dire situation” says a native. There are two or three homestays with adequate facilities in Anakulam for tourists and a few tea shops providing Keralite food thrice a day.

The Forest Department has set up a 1.5 km crash guard rope fencing on the riverside in order to prevent elephant breach into settlement area and farmlands. There are five original Muthuvan tribe settlements in the interior part of the forest called Kozhivila Kudi, Mangapara Kudi, Korathi Adhivasi Colony, Chikkanam Kudi and Sheval Kudi. They live in accordance with their tradition and cultivate tuber crops, ginger and pepper. There are hanging bridges across the river for the use of the settlers and the forest officials.

Anakulam is gifted with the Nallatanniyaar which at the same time wets and beautifies the place. This forest area is high with biodiversity of flora and fauna. There are animals such as flying squirrel, bats, butterflies, otter, jungle fox, jungle cat and wild boar. There are also snakes including cobras, vipers, kraits and many non-poisonous snakes. There are bird species as well like jungle fowl, woodpecker, bulbul, fish-eagle, owl, grey hornbill, darter, little cormorant, black eagle and black-capped kingfisher.

The woods on the banks of these tributaries are mounted with various types of trees and bushes. To have a dip in these streams is thrilling and soothing. Jeep safari is available at Anakulam for a round through the dense forest through the rough and rigid narrow roads. One can access Anakulam via bus from Ernakulam via Adimali, Kallar and Mankulam. It will be worthwhile to investigate the geo-chemical characteristic of the pond to ascertain the reasons for the intoxication of the elephants after drinking the water. It is strongly recommended to declare Anakulam as a reserve forest area to prevent encroachment and human settlements. The place can also be included in the tourist map to attract visitors from different parts of the country and abroad.

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