Shocked veterinarians seek safer methods to tranquilize elephants

Say quieter guns are used abroad to manage rogue animals

January 13, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 06:09 am IST - KOCHI:

Veterinarians of Elephant Squads of Kerala have called for safe modes for controlling rogue animals, especially elephants.

Veterinarians of Elephant Squads of Kerala have called for safe modes for controlling rogue animals, especially elephants.

Shocked by the killing of veterinarian C. Gopakumar while tranquilising an elephant at Mallappally on Sunday, veterinarians of Elephant Squads of Kerala have called for safe modes for controlling rogue animals, especially elephants.

With the annual temple festival season, which coincides with the musth season of tuskers, beginning, the incident has sent shock waves among the experts who risk their lives on the job. It was a decade ago that an expert was killed last by an elephant in an attempt to dart the animal.

U. Girish, a veterinarian who has feigned death to escape from rogue elephants a few times, said the dart guns made noise while being fired. Silent guns and elephant management techniques were deployed in foreign countries. Such equipment and mechanism should be introduced here too, he said.

The veterinarians would soon come up with suggestions for safe management of the animals and safe working conditions for the doctors, he said.

Abraham Tharakan, who had darted around 175 elephants over the years, said escape routes for the gunman should be identified before the trigger was pulled. Usually, the animals were fired at from some safe quarters, say, from behind a wall or a building. The animals should be distracted or blocked from charging down on being fired upon. In most cases, the animals took a U-turn and charged, he said.

Overconfidence often landed the darting experts in trouble. Each case was unique and hence a standard protocol for tranquilising the animals was difficult to be evolved, Dr. Tharakan said, recounting his close encounters with elephants in musth.

Easwaran, State president of the Indian Veterinary Association, felt that the experts should be provided sufficient risk cover. V. Brahmanandan, Director, Animal Husbandry Department, said the risk-cover benefits for government employees were available for veterinarians too. The risk was part of the occupational hazard of veterinary experts. However, discussed would be held with the State government following the incident, he said.

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