The Madras High Court on Wednesday said the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Project Tiger) should make a periodical assessment of the needs of the six elephants which were captured after they strayed into Tiruvannamalai district and confined in Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserves. As and when the authorities concerned feel that the elephants may be relocated in any other forest area, they should do it without loss of time and in accordance with the rules and regulations.
The First Bench comprising the Acting Chief Justice R.K.Agrawal and Justice M.Sathyanarayanan passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation petition seeking to restrain the forest officials from confining the captured pachyderm to kraals in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in The Nilgiris District and Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Coimbatore district.
Separating a herd immediately after tranquilising it and transporting it to nearly 500 km from their present habitat, the Javadhu Hills in Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts, would cause immense stress to them.
The Bench said the Additional PCCF (Project Tiger) had submitted that their best efforts to drive the six wild elephants into the forest area failed. Having tasted the agricultural produce, the elephants repeatedly started raiding the farm lands. The forest official, after getting permission from the Central Government and consulting experts in the field, decided to capture the elephants and relocate them in the camps maintained in Mudumalai and Anamalai. Accordingly, the elephants were relocated.
Though the petitioner contended that the captured elephants were kept in individual kraals, thereby putting them to physical agony, the court was of the considered view that the same was an age old and time tested practice. The forest official had specifically stated that the elephants would be kept in kraals, but after being tamed, they would be released, fed well and their health and other essential parameters observed periodically. A time schedule would be given for the camps in which the elephants were kept.
In the order, the Bench said it was also taking judicial notice of the fact that in Assam and in Kerala railway lines had been laid across the elephant corridor and pachyderms used to a certain movement pattern were put hit by trains and died. It was sad to note that such tragedies occurred. The Bench expressed hope and trust that while laying roads and railway lines in and around forest areas, the departments concerned of the Central and State Governments would take note of the pattern of movement of the animals and avoid laying roads and railway lines in those areas so that man-animal conflict may not occur.
Plea for CBI probe
Meanwhile, the Bench ordered notice on a writ petition by T.P.Senthil Kumar, an advocate, seeking a direction to CBI to nominate a team and investigate the nature and cause of death of two elephants on June 9, 2011 at Anaikatti beat of Segur Range and Mangalapatti beat of Nilgiris eastern range and take appropriate action.