Shortage of hands for sedating restive elephants a cause for concern

Don’t blame it on the veterinarians if they arrive late to dart restive wild animals as Kochi has only one licensed government veterinarian for the jumbo job.

Though there is enough number of government veterinarians in the district who can dart the animals, including elephants, only one has the licence to pick up the dart gun and fire to sedate them.

And it may take hours for making his service available as proved in the city on Tuesday. It took nearly three hours for the veterinarian to arrive at Thevara where an elephant ran amok and killed its mahout.

With the temple festival season nearing, the shortage of hands to tranquillise the elephants which may run wild has become a cause of concern in the district. Several incidents of tuskers running amok causing death and destruction had been reported during the temple festival seasons.

When the animal went wild at Thevara, the licensed vet was at Paravur. The doctor, who was at Paravur, had to be summoned for controlling the animal. Hence, the delay, said P. Devarajan, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Ernakulam, when asked about the long response time.

Recently, the government had issued an order insisting that only those veterinary surgeons who had undergone training for darting the animals and obtained licence from the Conservator of Forest shall be permitted to tranquillise wild animals.

Though there are a few veterinary doctors in the district who have undergone training programme for tranquillising the animals, only one has volunteered to obtain the licence. Unlicenced doctors were refusing to take up the risky task fearing that they would be held responsible for any untoward incidents while shooting the animals with dart guns, said Dr. Devarajan.

However, service of the doctors is made available on written requests from senior police officers in such emergency cases considering the gravity of the situation, he said.

According to another government veterinary doctor from the district, an order empowering the District Collectors to issue darting orders could save precious lives and settle the issue for ever. The one who took the licence from the Forest Department did it out of his personal interest, he said.

The authorities had earlier formed a 5-member elephant squad armed with dart guns and tranquillisers in the district. The service of the squad will be made available in festivals where more than five elephants are paraded.

V.K. Venkitachalam, the secretary of the Heritage Animal Task Force, an NGO based at Thrissur, sought the intervention of the authorities to take custody of the animal that went wild at Thevara on Tuesday and transfer it to the Elephant Camp at Kodanad for saving it from the torture of mahouts. The ownership of the elephant had changed several times in the past and it was put in the command of various mahouts, the complaint send to the wildlife authorities said.

Forest officials said that they had directed the owner of the elephant to produce the documents of ownership of the animal.

More In: Kochi