Tigers have hunted down two elephants, including a young one, last month in Kerala forests.
The killing of the young elephant at Sairandhri in the Silent Valley National Park has caught the wildlife experts by surprise as tigers are known to target mostly cubs. The nearly seven-year-old tusker was hunted down by the tiger near the trek path that runs through the forest area.
The ill-fated elephant had charged at two forest officials inside the forest on the eve of its death. A few researchers and forest officials had reported hearing loud cries of the animal and roaring of the tiger early hours of March 27. The body of the animal was found on the trek path the next morning, said M. Joshil, Assistant Wildlife Warden of the park.
Signs of battle between the two animals were visible at the site where the carcass was found. Pug marks of the tiger were also spotted at the site. The elephant had suffered big wounds on the hind limbs indicating that it was attacked from behind, he said.
O.P. Kaler, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity), felt that it was unusual for a juvenile elephant to be killed by tiger. Though incidents of elephants attacking cubs had been reported, killing of juvenile was uncommon.
The reduced prey base in the evergreen forest might have forced the tiger to hunt the elephant. The animal might have been sick and weak, making it vulnerable to the attack, he said.
The managers of the park also succeeded in photographing the tiger feeding on the remains of the body for nearly one week. It came for feeding after 6.20 p.m. for a week and every time, it dragged the carcass away before feeding on it. The remains were left at the site of the kill for the animal to feed, officials said.
P.S. Easa, member of the Steering Committee of the Project Elephant Task Force, said that tigers were the only predators of calf elephants. Animals that get separated from the herd or inquisitive cubs venturing out from the care of adults can fall prey to tiger attacks.
In another incident, a three-month-old calf was killed at Kappayam in Edamalayar range. The calf might have been isolated by the herd.
There is also the possibility of wild dogs attacking the calf. The carcass was destroyed after post mortem, said B.N. Nagaraj, Divisional Forest Officer, Malayattoor.
Last year, two elephants were killed by tigers in Kurichiyad range of Wayanad.