Bengaluru: A tense operation on Sunday resulted in the capture of a 35-year-old tusker, which has gained notoriety as ‘Rowdy’ Ranga among villagers on the outskirts of the city.
Forest officials, who had received orders to capture ‘troublesome’ elephants in the area, captured Ranga close to Bhanatarakuppe Forest near Magadi around 2.30 p.m.. Over 70 officials and five trained elephants had been deployed to track down and capture the elephant.
D. Manjunath, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Ramanagaram), was the nodal officer for the operation. “There were no problems in capturing the elephant. We are now transferring it to a kraal in Bannerghatta National Park,” he said.
The officials had camped in the area for over a week after orders for capturing ‘troublesome’ elephants were issued. Until Sunday, two elephants had been captured near Nelamangala.
Symbol of man-elephant conflict
‘Rowdy’ Ranga has quite a reputation among villagers in the region. In 2006, it made news after killing a farmer near Bannerghatta. Since then, Ranga and his gang of 11 have been spotted along a corridor stretching from Bannerghatta and Ragihalli to Kaggalipura off Kanakapura Road. They have raided crops close to Savandurga forest, Bhantarakuppe and other villages near Magadi, and even in areas close to Nelamangala.
Officials said capture was the only option as the group was causing crop loss worth Rs. 1 crore annually.
The anger against the elephant — evident by the numerous injury marks across its hide, including pellet injuries — had reached boiling point with villagers recently threatening to kill the animal.
Forest Department officials, who were part of the operation, said ‘Rowdy Ranga’ epitomises the vicious cycle fuelling man-elephant conflict. “Over the years, after being attacked several times, the elephant is visibly irked at the sight of any human it considers a threat. The more agitated it has got over the years, the more attacks we have seen,” said an official.
In 2015, officials had to intervene and treat Ranga after villagers used mini-explosives to damage to its fore leg.
‘Save Ranga’ campaign
The news of the capture was met with dismay by wildlife enthusiasts who had started a ‘Save Ranga’ campaign on Facebook.
Rakshith Gowda, a member of the group, believes the tusker is a rare case. “Ranga was the leader of a herd consisting of 11 male elephants. This made his family very unique...(they) had turned Bannerghatta National Park into a place where they bred with captive elephants,” he said in a post.
Of the 11, five had died over the years, including Sidda at Manchanabele after suffering for 71 days due to a leg injury. The rest were being captured one at a time.
Wildlife activist Ashok Hallur said it would be injustice if Ranga was kept enclosed in a kraal. “It is a wild animal, and just like the other captured elephants, it should be relocated to the wild in national parks,” he said.
Leopard captured at Doddaballapur
A leopard was caught in a poultry farm at Karehalli near Doddaballapur on Sunday. The female, around 12 years old, had strayed into the farm on Saturday night. Farmers heard a noise from the small outhouse where the chickens are kept. They closed the door suspecting that the intruder was a thief. But when the family peeped through a small slit, they realised it was a leopard.
Forest officials rescued the leopard after arranging for a cage and doctors to administer tranquillisers. By then, officials said, a crowd of over 1,000 villagers had gathered. The police were called to control the crowd. The leopard was shifted to the treatment centre at Bannerghatta Biological Park.
Officials believe that the leopard may have been living in a small copse near the village. It might have gone into the poultry farm in search of food.