‘Operation Malai’ met with some success with two of the six wild elephants being tranquilised on Tuesday. The elephants had strayed into the villages of Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram districts recently and damaged crops.
Since the herd in the forest near Ravanthavadi village could not be driven to Mel Chengam as planned, the officials shifted the operations to Ravanthavadi.
Officials left fodder like banana stem, jaggery, jackfruit, pearl millet (Kambu), banyan branches and salt at a place along Thandarampattu-Thanippadi road where the elephants were expected to come by evening, based on week-long observation. “This is to lure them and make them stand there for at least five to ten minutes so that our veterinarians could dart the tranquiliser at them,” said S.Kalyanasundaram, Conservator of Forests, Vellore.
Traffic on Thandarampattu-Thanippadi road was cut off. About 200 policemen and an equal number of forest personnel apart from elephant mahouts were deployed; four out of five ‘kumki’ elephants joined the operations. Eight Forest department veterinarians drawn from different parts of the State, led by Dr.Manoharan, were stationed at the site. A large number of onlookers climbed hillocks nearby to get a view of the drama.
At about 4.40 pm, the elephants started from the forests. Dr.Manoharan took a shot at the older tusker called ‘otrai komban’. Soon, all of them retreated into the forests. Forest personnel followed them to keep track of the elephant that was targeted. The others came out of the forests again in ten minutes and quickly crossed the road. This time, a female elephant member was darted. But all the animals, including the darted one, managed to retreat again.
After giving time for the sedative to work, elephant workers and three kumki elephants were sent into the forest to bring the darted elephants. But the presence of four elephants at about one kilometer distance inside the forests made it difficult for the authorities to bring out them out.
Since it was already dark, forest officials decided to tie up the elephants and resume work by Wednesday morning.