Tusker in Periyar Tiger Reserve killed 12 cow elephants in two ‘musth' seasons

With the annual ‘musth' season of elephants nearing, forest officials of Periyar Tiger Reserve are planning to closely observe the rogue tusker, which had earlier killed 12 female elephants in the wild.

The nine-foot-tall tusker had killed nine cow elephants in 2009 and three, last year. The animal, whose age is estimated between 25 and 30 years, has 1.5-ft-long tusks, which are very thick at base and sharp at tips. The ‘musth' season of the elephants begins in April and end by May.

According to Sanjayankumar, Deputy Director of the Reserve, the animal was spotted near Thekkady Lake nearly a month ago. No incidents of elephant deaths or injuries from attack have come to the notice of officials so far. Yet, the animal would be observed closely for aggressive behaviour, he said.

‘Alpha Male'

Experts who studied the incidents had indicated that the animal, which was nicknamed Alpha Male, was the villain. They had also suggested that the tusker should be tracked regularly and if needed, telemetric techniques should be employed. There were also suggestions for “appropriate corrective measure of trimming of tusks” of the rogue animal.

P.S. Easa, an elephant expert, said the tusker turned violent due to behavioural aberration. “Even in musth, some captive bull elephants behave normally. Some become very aggressive. This case should be considered as the behavioural problem of the individual elephant,” said Dr. Easa who was part of an expert team which looked into the issue.

Limited scope

According to him, it was better to leave the matter to Nature. “We are not left with many options to control the situation. It will not be easy to dart the animal and radio collar it, considering the undulating terrain of the reserve,” he said.

A report in relation to the incidents said bulls in musth have often been known to attack cow elephants, regardless of whether the latter are in heat. Incidents of fighting between bulls and attack on cows are not uncommon. However, deaths of cow elephants due to attack in such a short span of time is rare. Thus the behaviour of the tusker, involved in the attack in this case, is unusual, the report concluded.