Injured tusker captured by Forest Department for treatment dies

A kumki trying to lift the sedated elephant during the Forest Department’s operation to capture the jumbo for treatment at Masinagudi on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: M. Sathyamoorthy

Efforts to treat an injured tusker in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) failed after the 40-year-old elephant died while on the way to Theppakadu elephant camp on Tuesday.

The elephant, which was found with an injury to its back in December, had gradually weakened over the last few weeks.

A few days ago it was seen with a serious injury to its ear.

Local residents claimed that the animal had sustained the injury after being attacked with a petrol bomb. These claims were quickly dismissed by the Forest Department officials.

The elephant that was roaming around villages in the buffer zone of the MTR for the last two months, was captured on Tuesday morning with the help of four kumki elephants – Wasim, Vijay, Giri and Krishna.

Deputy Director of MTR (Buffer Zone), L.C.S. Srikanth, said that the animal was found near Masinagudi. Forest Veterinary Officer Sugumaran and veterinary assistant surgeon, Theppakadu, Rajesh Kumar were involved in the operation to dart the tusker, after which it was loaded onto a flat-bed truck and taken to Theppakadu.

The animal is believed to have died on the way to the elephant camp.

The elephants Wasim and Vijay were experienced kumkis involved in a number of elephant operations. The other two – Giri and Krishna, around 10-years-old, are being trained to become kumkis in the future and were brought along to assist and learn from the more experienced kumkis.

Dr. Sugumaran said that it seemed likely that the animal had sustained the serious injury to its ear by “anti-social elements” who threw a crude petrol bomb at it.

K.K.Kaushal, Field Director of MTR, said that “prima facie” it seemed unlikely that the elephant was injured by miscreants as there was a dedicated forest team monitoring its movements since December.

However, he said that the forest department would continue to investigate how the elephant sustained such a serious injury to its ear. “We will find the culprits responsible if it turns out that the wound was caused by people,” said Mr. Kaushal.

A Nilgiris-based conservationist familiar with the elephant said that the death of the tusker represented a failure on many levels.

“This elephant was known to stray close to human habitations, and people, especially resort owners who used to feed it. It was an open secret that was not discouraged, which has ultimately led to its death, quite possibly at the hands of the same people who used to feed it,” said the conservationist.

He questioned the decision to tranquillise an animal that was already in an extremely weakened state.

“It is risky to tranquillise even healthy elephants. Seeing that this tusker was quite docile, there could have been arrangements made to treat him at the same place without moving him to Theppakadu,” said the conservationist, requesting anonymity.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 1:21:19 PM |

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