By Dayo Johnson
RESIDENTS and farmers in six communities in Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State are living in palpable fear over the killing of one of the eight elephants said to have been terrorising farmers in the last few months.
The six communities troubled by the invasion of the animals are Alawo Ekun, Atupa, Ayinuola, Blessing, Ago Taylor and Nirowi.
Mixed reactions have greeted the killing of the elephant.
While some describe it as self defence, others ask relevant authorities to do the needful by bringing the culprits to book for their cruelty against the animals.
Elephant was killed to save lives—head hunter
Reports had it that a 57-year- old local hunter in Janiyi village, ldanre, Ojo Olaniyan Adaralode led others to kill one of the eight elephants said to have invaded the communities at midnight.
Adaralode, who is the head hunter and President of Hunters Association in the council area, said he and other hunters responded to the distress call from the communities following frequent invasion of the elephants which had caused them untold hardship.
Adaralode said that the death of one of the animals was “not deliberate but to save the lives and properties of the people living in communities.”
He said: “Elephants from the thick forest had been visiting the villages in the area for sometime, destroying their mud houses, farmlands, injuring people and sometime ago, sacked the residents of one of the villages, while a number of farmers relocated to a new place.”
Narrating how he led other hunters to face the animal, Adaralode said: “On that fateful day, I was called that a group of elephants, numbering about eight, had invaded farms at Janiyi village. I rushed there and lo and behold, we met about eight elephants, charging and running after the residents of the village already.
“One of the farmers, who saw the elephants on his farm and raised the alarm was held captive by the animals and when he tried to shoot to scare the animals away, the animals flung him to the ground and in the process, trampled on him and destroyed the gun with him.”
Adaralode told Vanguard that the young hunter is still lying critically ill at an hospital in Idanre.
Continuing, he said: “When we got to the scene, we shot into the air severally to scare them away but it yielded no result and one of the elephants was shot in the process.”
According to him, residents of the communities have been living in fear for months as the elephants have been visiting the communities frequently and leaving tales of woes.
He said all efforts to wade off the animals from the communities yielded no result.
Corroborating the head hunter’s claim, a community leader, Chief Alani Akinlaja said that the animals usually invade the communities at night while they are asleep using their long tusks to uproot their huts and destroy their farmlands in the process.
Akinlaja said: “Many houses have been destroyed by the animals which usually invaded the communities at night in search of what to eat; the animals are becoming more daring day by day as they have changed from their night invasion to daylight attack. It is like they are possessed by the way they destroy everything in their way including human beings.”
However, the Ode-Ekun of Idanre, Smart Oguntimehin, who said the killing, was in self defence, solicited for government assistance in capturing the animals from the area.
Oguntimehin said that a young farmer who was working on his farm noticed the arrival of the animals on his farm and tried to chase them out of the farm but said “before he could bring himself together, the animals started charging at him and trampled on him until he became unconscious.”
He said: “Cruelty to animals is a crime and we cannot take laws into our hands but we must guard against the killing of our people. We have to protect our lives, lives are involved and we call on relevant authorities and bodies to come to our aid in bringing these animals under control.”
Hunters now hunted
Vanguard was informed that even the hunters after the incident now go hunting in groups for fear of possible attack by two elephants, which they fear may return for revenge.
A leader in the community, who spoke with Vanguard, Tubosun Ogunmade warned the residents to be vigilant, saying the elephants would soon mobilise themselves to attack the people.
He said: “These animals are intelligent and hardly forget things, they will be back to revenge.”
When it was killed, Vanguard was informed that the seven others made attempt to pull it along while they fled the village but it was difficult because of some obstacles along the thick forest.
No fewer than eight members of the community reportedly sustained various degrees of injuries when the animals invaded the communities and one of them met his death.
After the elephant was killed, the villagers heaved a sigh of relief and brought out their knives and cutlasses to butcher the animal.
Vanguard learned that many villagers, who had the inkling that danger lurks in the corner have relocated.
They reportedly farm during the day in the community but retire to sleep in other safe communities some distance away.
Mixed reactions greet killing
A university don, Prof. Ilesanmi Adeyemo called for the arrest and prosecution of those behind the dastardly act.
Adeyemo who is of the Department of Ecotourism and Wild Life at the Federal University of Technology Akure said: “What that man did is illegal and he should be arrested and taken to jail because almost all the elephants in the area have been killed illegally. I don’t think we have up to 15 elephants in the whole of Nigeria and we are seriously looking for a way to conserve them. Elephants rarely attack people and I will not believe the hunter killed the animal to defend himself or his people.”
Ondo Govt, monarch keeps mum
The Owa of Idanre, Oba Frederick Aroloye declined comment asking this reporter to go and speak to the killers of the animal.
Also, the state Commissioner for Tourism and Culture, Deji Olurimisi said the government is not concerned about the incident.
Olurimisi said: “How am I concerned about what you are asking me? Since it did not happen in government forest reserve or government golf course, it’s not my concern.”
Also, the Commissioner for Environment, Funso Esan said that if the elephants pose danger to the lives of the people, they are justified if they kill the animal.
NGO indicts govt
Meanwhile, a Non- governmental body, Environment and Justice in Africa, in a memo to the state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu said “the killing of a dwarf Elephant during the week in Idanre Forest reserve is an indictment on the part of the Ondo State government and its Ministry of Environment.
Its spokesperson, Dr Olugbenga Oke Samuel said: “The killing of the Elephant in Idanre is definitely a wake up call on the government to prioritise environmental governance in the state.”
On its part, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, NCF, has asked the governor to prosecute the hunter who killed an elephant in Idanre.
The Acting Director General of the NCF, Joseph Onoja, said ”The NFC plays a vital role in the country’s environment nature preservation. We manage the Omo-Shasha Woodland which is the last forest complex in the South-West where we still have the forest elephant.
“It was in the corner of this forest that an elephant was killed, we have been in touch with the governor trying to get him to take action because the incident has the potential of embarrassing his government.”