Even before the forest department officials can heave a sigh of relief after capturing six elephants which had strayed into Tiruvannamalai district, they have another elephantine problem to tackle.
A public interest litigation petition has now been filed in the Madras High Court to restrain the officials from confining the captured pachyderm to kraals in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris District and Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Coimbatore district.
According to the petitioner, the size of a kraal will be a little more than that of the elephant.
The animal would remain trapped until it obeyed the commands of mahouts. Thereafter, the elephants would be kept in captivity throughout their life time. The six elephants should be released in any other suitable wild area, the petitioner said.
A Division Bench comprising Justices Chitra Venkataraman and K.B.K.Vasuki on Friday posted the matter for further hearing on September 10 for filing of affidavits by the authorities.
The petitioner, E.Seshan (65) of Thorapakkam here, said he worked as a Wildlife Photographer in the Zoological Survey of India for 36 years and retired from service. He was presently engaged in conserving wildlife, nature and environment. He said the six elephants formed a part of a bigger herd.
They had lost their home range due to human intervention. In South India, the elephant population had dwindled due to degradation and loss of habitat and poaching.
This apparently had affected the sex ratio disproportionately in the wild.
In the circumstances, capturing the male elephants, which would automatically get dispersed from the herd after reaching adulthood, would have adverse consequences.
On enquiry, he came to know that the forest officials had taken a “hasty decision without any transparent scientific basis” to capture all the six elephants and put them in kraals.
An order to this effect was passed on August 19.
Separating a herd immediately after tranquilising it and transporting it to its ultimate destination which was about 500 km from their present habitat, the Javadhu Hills in Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts, would cause immense stress to them. There was a possibility of the death of the elephants.
The petitioner said that the impugned order had violated the Wildlife Protection Act.