The Elusive Elephants

It wasn’t the first time that I visited Pooyamkutty. When I came here with my friends last summer, we were occupied with trekking and sightseeing and I knew then, I would be visiting this place again.

This time I am here in Pooyamkutty with my friend Sreejith for a different reason. This is a story about our weekend trip to the jungles of Pooyamkutty in search of the elusive elephants. What really led us to this trip were the stories about the elephants here. In most of the jungles of Kerala, the wild elephants are a usual sighting. Despite of the huge population, the chances of seeing an elephant here in the wild are very less. I remember from the last visit, a local telling us that the elephants here come out only during the night and raid their crops. The villagers have set up electric fences to scare these animals away. After their village visit, the herd move towards the Pooyamkutty River.

The Pooyamkutty “Aaru” or the “river” separates the jungle from the nearest town. Monsoon was yet to arrive and the lush green river bank was looking beautiful. While we were crossing the river, we already started hearing unusual calls from the jungle. Now we were more eager to find out what really lies deep inside the jungle. So, we stopped nearby a tea shop to inquire. You won’t find a better place to start off with, when the place is unfamiliar to you. The people sitting in the tea shop said; mostly tribal people live deep in the jungle. The jungle route is the only path to reach there. They have to walk for many kilometers through the jungle to reach here. This is nothing new for them. Both, the elephants and humans have learned to coexist here. The tribes and the elephants are the ones who use this path very often. Like most of the animals these animals are active during the night and are regular visitors at the Pooyamkutty River. The elephants are very rarely seen on these roads during the day time, he said.

The “Chettan” who served us tea was more interested in talking politics, than talking about the place or the elephants. We didn’t have time for all that. With this limited information we start out for the jungle to see for ourselves, what makes Pooyamkutty elephants elusive!

Knowing that it would be a stupid idea, if we take our bike over the rough and rugged jungle path, we parked our bike near the tea shop and decided to walk further. We saw other bikers on the way who were returning. On these rough roads, they couldn’t have gone deep into the jungle. But, we decided to go on foot as far as we could. All we know is, what we have got ahead is a forest where elephants roam and feed and breed. That was more like walking straight into their home. But the elephants here are elusive (probably, they are keeping themselves away from humans). I knew already we were not going to spot any here, because we didn’t spot any, when I came here before with my friends Farooq and Jinsh, who accompanies me in most of the trips.

Sreejith was busy filming the bamboo forests and the paths and shortcuts made by the giants. Our road ahead was getting narrower. We could also feel the smell of fresh elephant dung in the air. It seems the elephants were here a while ago, and it won’t be a good idea to go further, he said. If they are around, there is every chance that the elephants have sensed our presence in the jungle already. The elephants won’t tolerate intruders in their territory and will do anything to keep its herd safe. Keeping that in mind we decided to walk back and show some respect. This little trekking trip through the bamboo forest is something that I will never forget.

The elephants here keep a safe distance from human beings. This is something I like about these amazing animals. We humans have got a lot to learn from these highly social animals. And again, my second trip to Pooyamkutty ended the way I expected. No elephants! The elephants have eluded us once again.

Some Facts on Pooyamkutty Elephants:

The jungles of Pooyamkutty in Western Ghats are an important elephant corridor with the highest population of elephants in Kerala. It connects the Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary and Eravikulam National Park, making Pooyamkutty a major elephant migration route. The bamboo forest here just provides the perfect habitat for them. The elephants freely roam in this jungle, looking for food and this is one of the best breeding grounds. It is incredible that these animals could travel thousands of kilometers in a year searching for food and water.

If you would like to have a look at some of the pictures we clicked, I have pinned it here.

How did we got there?

Ernakulam-Muvatupuzha-Kothamangalam-Thattekad, and another 20 kilometers (half an hour) from Thattekad to Pooyamkutty.


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