The mahout was reportedly drunk and hit the elephant with a stick
Puttur was on its toes for the third day as the elephant, which had been restrained in the town on Tuesday after turning violent, struck down and killed its mahout early on Thursday.
Around 1.15 a.m., mahouts Kalladi Chandra (50), Varadaraja (45), and a team of Forest Department officials were escorting the 25-year-old elephant Parashurama from Puttur market to a vacant plot in Padil nearby, when the elephant struck down Chandra. While the trunk of the animal tripped him, the elephant reportedly crushed his body against the tarmac using its head.
Chandra, who is from Wayanad district of Kerala, was killed on the spot.
According to P. Sridhar, Range Forest Officer (Puttur subdivision), Vardaraja was riding the elephant, while Chandra was walking along side. “They walked at some distance ahead of us, because we didn’t want the huge contingent of policemen to scare and anger the elephant. However, suddenly it attacked Chandra. We carried his body, until the elephant could be safely chained at the spot,” he said.
While Varadaraja has been the mahout for Parashurama for eight years, Chandra had only joined a few months ago. After taking a swig of toddy during the walk, Chandra had repeatedly struck the elephant with a goad – a hook like device on a stick. “I was sitting on the elephant, and it was walking along obediently. Suddenly, it lunged at Chandra, crushed him, and walked along as if nothing happened,” he said.
Chandra is survived by wife and three daughters. Forest Department officials said although compensation is not given during attacks by privately-owned elephants — the elephant is owned by Shiroor Math, Udupi — the department would make a recommendation of Rs. 5 lakh in this case.
While being transported from Uppinangady to Sullia for grazing on Tuesday afternoon, Parashurama, who went into heat, became violent and smashed the sides of the truck. He was tranquilised and subdued by Abhimanyu, an elephant from Nagarhole National Park, and restrained in Puttur town. The midnight operation on Wednesday was to ensure the elephant was taken outside the busy town.
On Thursday afternoon, Abhimanyu and two elephants – Vikram and Harsha — from Dubare elephant camp were called to restrain Parashurama, who had been tranquilised, while handlers strengthened the restrains of the elephant.
Parashurama would be taken to Kantapura Camp in Nagarhole as soon as a special truck, which had an iron cage for transporting elephants, arrived, said Uma Shankar, a veterinarian doctor from Nagarhole.
Owned by the math in Udupi, Parashurama, then called Lakshmisha, was involved in a rampage in the town that killed a man seven years ago.
According to Uma Shankar, veterinarian from Nagarhole, healthy elephants go into heat (called Musth in Hindi, Mada in Kannada) about once a year, which was usually seen as a temporin secretion from behind the ear. This characterised physical and sexual aggression, he said.
“Handlers usually isolate the elephant and give it rest.
“In Parashurama’s case, he was being transported in a truck through Puttur city, and the start-stop traffic and noise must have upset the elephant,” he said.
With the elephant being in a constant state of irritation, even the slightest provocation by the mahout could lead to aggression, he said.