After straying into human habitat, tusker is taken back to the forest

Sunday 2.45 a.m. at Bhavani Sagar, the captured tusker got off the truck and headed straight for its habitat, bringing joy to Forest Department officials, who had toiled for 72 hours. The jumbo had caused considerable tension when it entered a human habitat, and remained there for three days.

The release of the over 25-year-old marked the end of a 20-hour-operation, perhaps Tamil Nadu's first.

The animal strayed from the Thadagam Reserve Forest, and was wandering since Wednesday night. Initially, it was confined to a farm by officials on Thursday and Friday.

As the official machinery was gearing up, it gave the officials the slip, travelled another 35 km, and reached Naagaranai near Sathyamangalam.

During its trek, the elephant more or less created a record for having travelled a distance of over 55 km into a human habitation.

The 4.5-tonne animal, measuring 7.5 m in height, remained docile throughout, neither attacking people nor damaging property.

The officials chose to tranquillise and relocate it rather than use kumkis (captive trained elephants used for taming wild elephants ) to drive it back into the jungles, considering the arduous way back and the psychological condition of the tusker, which had spent close to three days in the presence of humans.

After being tranquillised at 3.30 p.m. on Saturday, it resisted boarding the truck for more than an hour. It was finally pushed into the truck by three kumkis. The onward journey to its habitat began around 8.15 p.m. Throughout the journey, the tusker remained restless. The officials were worried that its raised trunk might come into contact with electric lines.

To ensure the animal's safety and that of the public, the officials piloted and escorted the lorry carrying the sedate jumbo. The police too played a role by ensuring that the 20-km stretch was free of disturbances.

As the tusker was sedated heavily, forest veterinarian N.S. Manoharan ‘dist injected' a reversal agent to allow the animal to recover. He darted the reversal agent using a gun just before the animal was released.

At Empton Pallam in Thengumarahada, the elephant started showing signs of recovering. Maintaining a careful distance, the forest staff removed the ropes and chains, leaving just one log of wood across the exit. The tusker gently pushed it aside and got down from the truck, which was parked on a slope. Soon after, it rushed into the jungle.

Officials, mahouts, cavadis (elephant handlers) and wildlife experts shook hands as the jumbo began running into the forest. The place of release was chosen carefully since it was considered a viable habitat, with a jumbo population of more than 400. The tusker would soon meet more of its kind and become part of a herd, they said. Having watched it for a few hours, the officials were convinced that there was no need for further monitoring as the pachyderm had gone deep into the jungle.

In recognition of the challenging role the department staff played, Conservators of Forest V.T. Kandasamy (Coimbatore), D. Arun (Erode), District Forest Officers V. Thirunavukkarasu (Coimbatore) and N. Satheesh (Erode) and Assistant Conservator of Forests C.H. Padma (Sathyamangalam) gave cash rewards.