The search for a larger patch of forests to make a home range may have led the two sub-adult males into the heart of Mysore, a city known more for its placid, caparisoned Dasara elephants.
Wednesday's rampage by the tusker — the other was a makhana which hid itself — left a security guard in a narrow bylane dead. Collateral damage included two dead cows, four injured passersby and a series of trashed vehicles.
While some elephant experts say that the fragmentation of forest land and non-availability of good and large patches of forests could be the reason for straying, it is also believed that sub-adult male elephants move out of the family herd to establish their own home range.
Foraging for food
“Social organisation of elephants is such that sub-adults wander on their own. In this case, they may have come in search of crops and may have deviated from their path,” Raman Sukumar of Centre for Ecological Sciences at Indian Institute of Science told The Hindu. It is their natural behaviour to migrate, but unfortunately they went into the city, he added.
In the past, Prof. Sukumar pointed out, males have been found to have traversed long distances for home range. “Just a few months ago, one was found near Chitradurga and it had traversed from near Bannerghatta. Similarly, years ago, another male, which had traversed around 300 km from near Hosur/ Bannerghatta forests, was captured on the East Coast,” he said.
Declining quality forest cover, fragmentation of forests and encroachment of elephant corridors could all be reasons for wild elephants straying into human habitations. “Such incidents will only increase in future unless urgent and drastic measures are put in place to preserve the rapidly declining forest cover,” said wildlife biologist and elephant expert Ajay Desai.
“Due to fragmentation of forests, elephants are living in patches that may not be of good quality or too small or medium size to make them their home range,” he added.
“Sometimes, they wander in search of a better place, and come in conflict with human beings,” he said.
He pointed out that there are instances of elephants straying into villages near national parks and people being trampled. He said that “because it came to Mysore, it has become big news, though we have been raising these issues for years.” Meanwhile, addressing the issue of the elephants straying from the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, B.C. Chettiappa, Assistant Director of Veterinary Sciences, said a distance of 35 km is no big deal for elephants. When they mean business, they can easily cover this distance in less than three hours, he said.