Himalayan News Service

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 20:

Pygmy elephants in Kerala? Unlikely, says an expert disputing the claims of two people that they sighted such pachyderms in a state forest. Jacob Cheeran, one of India’s foremost elephant experts, doubts the possibility of pygmy elephants being spotted near a wildlife forest at Peppara in the capital district.

The claim was made by wildlife photographer Sali Palode and a local tribesman, Mannan, who said they saw a group of five elephants, all small in size but looking like full-grown adults.

The photograph of one elephant clicked by Palode was published in newspapers here. Palode said these could not be baby elephants because young pachyderms do not move in a herd and are always seen in the company of elders.

But Cheeran said DNA tests were needed to prove such findings. “DNAs can be easily tested through samples of elephant dung because in the dung there is always a presence of mucus.

The collection is not a problem and the testing can be done at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore,” s-aid Cheeran who is a member of the Project Elephant committee. After seeing the photograph he also said the ear of an adult elephant curves inwards and in the published picture, no such inward curve was visible. According to him, the presence of pygmy elephants had not been scientifically proved in places other than Africa. He said he, too, had heard local tribes in southern Kerala talking about pygmy elephants, which they call ‘kallana’, but till date no one else had seen them. “So I have my doubts and I hope the authorities will do the tests,” said Cheeran.