Though officials were alerted at 6 a.m., it was several hours before the ‘kumkis' arrived

Questions are being raised over the manner in which the Forest Department woke up to the emergency calls after two wild elephants strayed into Mysore city early on Wednesday. Was the department ill-equipped to handle this unexpected situation, is the question doing the rounds among citizens here.

“This is a lesson for the Forest Department to be ready for any emergency related to animal attack,” said Satish Naidu, who along with his friend kept track of the sub-adult elephant that went on a rampage in the city, killing one person and injuring four.

People at fault too

The city woke up to the distressing TV visuals of the elephant attacking a man, and eventually killing him, as also cattle. People too must be blamed for throwing stones at the already agitated animal, making it furious, Mr. Naidu said.

In this case, the Forest Department was completely caught off guard. Nobody believed that wild elephants could do so much damage in a city. But, the department should have been ready to tackle the emergency, said Mahalingappa, who was playing football at the pavilion grounds when the elephant passed by.

Another person, who was with him, recalled an incident a few years ago when a palace elephant unshackled itself and strolled down the streets, but without harming anyone. The animal went back to the palace later. Such emergencies could not be ruled out, he said.

Many count themselves lucky to be unhurt, having seen a wild elephant from such close quarters. For Madaiah Naika, a watchman, his wife, Jayasheela, and two kids, the horror of watching the animal pass by their hut will not be easily forgotten.

Ill-equipped

A few days ago, preparations were being made at Polibetta in Kodagu to capture one of the two wild elephants. The Forest Department stated that the operation had begun, but there were no ropes and no drugs — including the one required to immobilise the animal — leaving the work in disarray. Medicines and veterinarians arrived only days after. Following a hue and cry from people who said translocation was not a solution, the captured animal was shifted to Bandipur National Park.

Precious time wasted

News of the presence of elephants reached forest officials as early as 6 a.m., but they could not manage the experienced ‘kumkis' (trained elephants) either from K. Gudi, Balle or Murkal or Dubare camps in the next six hours.

Field Director, Project Tiger, Ajay Mishra, told The Hindu at Dhobi Ghat that getting trucks to lift the elephants from the camps was difficult as the vehicles had to go from Mysore to fetch them. In that case, trucks would come slowly and it could take at least five to six hours, he said.

The Forest Mobile Squad, wildlife staff and territorial staff along with officers had been put on the job, Mr. Mishra stated.