Sept. 20: A British tourist was killed by a wild elephant yesterday while trying to take photographs of the animal in the Nilgiri forests. Two tourist guides who were with him have been detained for trespassing into a prohibited area.
Colin Manvell, 67, had entered the Singara Reserve Forest near Masinagudi, around 470km from Chennai, for a trek accompanied by the guides — Romi from Kochi and Kumar, a local.
The elephant, possibly irritated by the flash, came charging towards the group and struck Manvell with its trunk, injuring him on his head and chest.
“The incident happened around 5pm. It is the mistake of the guides as they should not have gone into the reserve forest and away from familiar trekking trails,” said district forest officer Sugeetharaj Koilpillai.
The guides, who managed to run and hide in the bushes till the elephant moved away, later returned with help from the resort where the tourist was staying and carried his limp body to Gudalur Government Hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
According to Masinangudi inspector F. Paulraj, the two guides are being questioned and have not been arrested. “They are too shaken up by the incident and realise that they endangered the life of a tourist. We will decide if they have to be charged for negligence,” he said.
Manvell, a keen wildlife photographer from Havant, Hampshire, had been staying in an area close to the border between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, which is famous for elephants and tigers.
According to the police, he had arrived in Kochi from London on September 13. He had visited the area frequently over the past five years.
Manvell had also been a keen tennis player for many years and was the treasurer of Portsmouth and District Lawn Tennis Association.
Michael Isaacs, Portsmouth and District LTA’s fixtures secretary, said: “He was a lovely man, very methodical, he was treasurer so he was quite precise. He was very easy to get along with and a great asset to the league and obviously we’ll miss him, but more to the point we’re also gobsmacked. It’s the sort of thing you hear about and think that’s absolutely unbelievable and then to find out you know the person quite well, it’s quite a bit to take in.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are aware of the tragic death of a British national in southern India and are providing consular assistance.”
Nilgiris is full of forest resorts that offer trekking trips and night safaris to tourists behind the backs of the forest authorities. Many of the resorts and jungle lodges have also been illegally constructed in reserve forests and on elephant corridors.
“This should serve as an eye-opener to the authorities to come down hard on these resorts and lodges,” observed advocate Elephant Rajendran, who has taken up the cause of pachyderms with a spate of cases in courts.