After keeping the Forests Department on tenterhooks for nearly 72 hours, an elephant which strayed out of its habitat in the Thadagam Reserve Forest in Coimbatore district, gave in after getting two shots of a tranquiliser on Saturday evening.

But, by then, the 26-year-old tusker had walked almost 55 km from the reserve forest and reached Nagaranai here in Erode District. It crossed a couple of national highways and many farms, striking fear among the people. But, it did not cause any damage to lives and property, officials said.

As the tranquiliser began acting on it, three tamed elephants (kumkis) from the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary — Mudumalai, Sujay and Wasim — coaxed the wild elephant into a truck, for being transported to a reserve forest near the Bhavani Sagar. The officials said it would be released in the jungles near Moyar, a valley between the Talamalai Hills and the northeastern slope of the Nilgiris.

The crowd that had swelled around the scene of action burst into applause when the elephant quietly move along with the kumkis. They celebrated the departure of the elephant and shook hands with Forest Veterinarian N.S. Manoharan for tranquilising the elephant.

Detailing the efforts made to capture it, the officials said that Conservators of Forests V.T. Kandasamy (Coimbatore) and D. Arun (Erode), N. Sathish, District Forest Officer, Erode and C.H. Padma, Assistant Conservator of Forests, drew an elaborate plan that included the use of the kumkis, trackers and a ramp to enable the dizzy elephant to climb onto the truck.

District Forest Officer, Coimbatore, V. Thirunavukkarasu and Dr. Manoharan trailed the elephant during its long trek from Thadagam.

It was the arrival of the kumkis on Saturday afternoon that firmed up things, enabling Dr. Manoharan to proceed with the plan to shoot the tranquiliser darts. An attempt to tranquilise it on Friday failed at Annur in Coimbatore, when the 4.5-tonne tusker wagged its tail and inadvertently brushed aside a dart fired at it.

But, the attempt on Saturday paid off. The first dart was fired at 3.26 p.m. and the second one after 4 p.m. Both found the target.

Then, as the drug took effect, the kumkis got to work. Two of them walked close to the tusker, and the third, right behind it — all the three giving not an inch of space for the wild elephant to move in any direction other than towards the waiting truck. It took 40 minutes for the entire process to be completed.

Officials said on Saturday that the elephant would be monitored till it recovered from sedation and moved deep into the jungle, the known habitat of pachyderms.