Tranquillising elephants is not so easy, say experts

It took the Forest Department all of six hours to capture the young tusker that went on the rampage on the streets of Mysore on Wednesday, killing a man and injuring four.

After much drama, the agitated animal — pursued by tens of hundreds of people at their raucous worst, was tranquillised and captured with the help of three tame elephants (kumkis) brought from the palace here.

After the jumbo gored to death security guard Renukaswamy (55) near the More Shopping Mall on N.S. Road in Shivarampet, forest officials escalated their efforts to corner and capture it. They had already aimed two tranquilliser darts at it, to no avail as it continued to run amok from Shivarampet to Saraswathipuram.

In hot pursuit

The foresters ran behind the animal, hoping to immobilise it even as the police struggled to control the frenzied crowds from going near the tusker.

The animal then rested in a bushy area off Kukkarahalli Road, next to Dhobi Ghaat in Sarawathipuram where yet another tranquilliser dart found its mark. This time the forest officials, convinced that the dose was finally acting on the animal, summoned three palace elephants to corral the young tusker.

So why did the tranquiliser take so much time to immobilise the agitated animal?

M.N. Jayakumar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, and Member Secretary, Zoo Authority of Karnataka, who was guiding the operation, told The Hindu that an elephant tranquilliser dart takes at least 15 to 20 minutes to act on the animal under normal circumstances.

However, if the animal is agitated after the dart is fired, it releases adrenalin, countering the tranquilliser's effect. This brings down its efficiency, he explained.

The quantum of the drug injected into the animal depends on its body weight, he added.

Senior veterinarian Qadri said tranquilliser darts work faster if they are fired properly. The drug should be discharged fully into the animal's body so that it acts faster, he said. The darts should be aimed at the rump or shoulder blade of the elephant for better results.

Dr. Qadri, who is on deputation at the Poultry Federation, said 6.65 ml of drug is required to immobilise a four-tonne elephant. The tranquilliser is usually etorphin hydrochloride.

More In: Karnataka | National