Hurling firecrackers at wild elephant Baahubalidraws criticism

Firecrackers being hurled at the wild elephant Baahubali near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore.  

A recent incident in which firecrackers were hurled at a wild elephant nicknamed Baahubali near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district has drawn criticism from various quarters.

After a video of the incident was widely circulated on social media, biologists and noted personalities expressed their anguish over the treatment meted out to the elephant.

“This is deeply deeply disturbing,” actor Dia Mirza said on Twitter in reply to the video shared by Vivek Menon, wildlife conservationist and the executive director of the Wildlife Trust of India.

Responding to the tweets, Supriya Sahu, Principal Secretary to Government in Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, replied that the incident happened in Mettupalayam.

“We have taken a serious note of this. Forest Department immediately conducted a flag march informing locals to desist from bursting crackers. We are working with Collectors and local communities to ensure this is never repeated,” she replied.

According to Forest Department officials, the incident took place at Kurumbanoor near Mettupalayam on July 11 while driving the elephant out from the village.

While accepting that the frontline workers of the Department hurled rocket crackers at the elephant, an official said that people from the locality also threw crackers at the tusker.

The Department conducted awareness rallies at three locations near Mettupalayam on July 14 after the video of firecrackers being hurled at the tusker went viral and many including biologists criticised the method.

A volunteer of a non-governmental organisation that is into conservation activities said the frontline staff use around 200 rocket crackers on some days to drive out wild elephants in forest ranges like Mettupalayam where human-elephant conflicts were high.

Mohan Kumar, a wildlife biologist with the environmental organisation ‘Osai’, felt that negative conditioning would work only when the animal associates the method with danger.

“If an animal gets relentlessly tormented through negative conditioning such as crackers, they will eventually get habituated to it and will quickly learn it is not dangerous to them. This is what is happening now. Most males and some female elephants in Coimbatore do not respond to cracker noise any more. This was not the case a decade ago,” he said.

According to him, eventually this would push the Department to use more cruel methods like rubber bullets and pepper bullets, which would cause more harm to the animal.

The incident occurred when the Department took a break in its efforts to tranquillise and radio-collar Baahubali for study purposes.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 7:31:58 AM |

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