Animal, first sighted in Kulthupuzha 3 months ago, captured near Varkala, released in forest.
The lack of human activity during the recent lockdown could have led the sloth bear, captured near Varkala a day ago, to stray close to human habitations, according to forest officials.
The preliminary assessment came shortly after the Forest Department released the animal in the interior forests of Pulikayam in the Kanayar forest range that is part of the Achencoil forest division.
Caught in trap cage
Around three months after it was first sighted in Kulathupuzha in Kollam, the female bear, assessed to be around 8 years old, was finally captured in a trap cage after it wandered in a rubber plantation at Palavacode, near Pallickal, early Friday. The wild animal had created panic in places close to the Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam border including Chathannoor, Navaikulam, and Pallickal.
Following its capture, the animal that figures in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was examined and steps were initiated for its release into its natural habitat.
On the reasons for the unusual occurrence, the department held the view that it could be closely linked to the near-total fall in human interference especially in the forest fringe areas of late. The lack of vehicle movement on forest roads had earlier been attributed to the sightings of an Indian civet in Kozhikode, and elephant and bison herds in Munnar.
Another in Punalur
According to Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar, the presence of humans generally deters wild animals from venturing close to human habitations. In this case, the sloth bear could have strayed too far away from the forest primarily with people largely staying indoors and vehicle flow restricted during the lockdown. Another bear was recently found around 10 km away from the forest in Punalur, he said.
While dismissing claims that the animal could have wandered in search of food, the officer pointed out that the unregulated tapping of wild honey could, however, pose a problem in the future.