Reconsider decision to put elephant in captivity: ecologist

Renowned ecologist and conservation biologist Priya Davidar has called upon the Chief Wildlife Warden in the State to reconsider the decision to capture wild elephant, known as “Rivaldo”.

The elephant was lured out of the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the Nilgiris, and put in a “kraal” set up at Vazhaithottam on Wednesday.

In her letter to the Chief Wildlife Warden, Ms. Davidar, a retired professor of ecology from Pondicherry University and former member of the State Board for Wildlife, Tamil Nadu said “Rivaldo was captured at Vazhaithottam based on the premise that he is unwell.” Ms. Davidar lives near Vazhaithottam in the MTR buffer zone and is familiar with the behaviour of the elephant.

Ms. Davidar said Rivaldo was healthy and that the breathing problems cited by the forest department, as one of the reasons for his capture, stem from an injury to his trunk in 2013. “He breathes noisily. However, he is able to feed on jungle vegetation and sustain himself, as witnessed by me last week,” said Ms. Davidar.

The ecologist said that another reason for the elephant staying close to human habitations was because the management of a private school in the area had been feeding the elephant fruits and sugarcane since September 2020. “Therefore, with this constant feeding, Rivaldo has become extremely dependent on fruits and sugarcane, which might affect his health adversely since elephants’ normal diet is rough forage,” she said.

Ms. Davidar believed that Rivaldo did not require veterinary care and that he could be de-habituated. She had also outlined steps that could be taken by the forest department for that. These steps were outlined in a newsletter of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, co-authored with fellow ecologists, Shermin de Silva and Jean-Philippe Puyravaud.

The paper details a process that can be implemented to de-habituate Rivaldo and prevent him from entering human habitations. The elephant cannot be captured without even attempting rehabilitation, said one of the authors of the paper.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 12:18:55 AM |

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