Act of tusker being fired at sparks outrage

A video grab showing a elephant being chased by forest officials at Bandipur.   | Photo Credit: Video Grab

A wild tusker had a providential escape when a staff from the anti-depredation force “accidentally” opened fire at it when it was trying to cross the rail track fence in the Omkara range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

The gun pellets hit the rail track fence and the tusker swerved to its right, climbed the mound and escaped without any injury.

Officials said the pellet would not have been fatal but it would have been embedded in the animal for years, which could have led to long-term complications.

The incident is said to have taken place nearly a week ago but its video surfaced on Wednesday and it went viral triggering outrage from wildlife activists and conservationists.

The anti-depredation team was reportedly not in any danger though the elephant was rushing towards them, as it was on the other side of the fence and hence this act of firing pellets has drawn criticism.

When contacted, T. Balachandra, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, admitted that the incident took place last week during an operation to goad the elephant back into the jungle. Loaded guns are carried by the force to drive the elephants towards the jungles and they open fire in the air during operations.

He said the force was goading the elephant back but it turned around and charged towards the squad members. “Their intention was to shoot in the air but in the melee the driver started the vehicle and there was a misfire with the pellets hitting the fence,” said Mr. Balachandra.

But according to activists, the video indicated that the distance was more than 50 feet and the rail fence separated the squad from the charging elephant and the animal posed no physical threat to them to warrant firing at it.

They say that the elephant, which was already agitated, could also have hurt itself as it ran in the other direction and into the trench and struggled to come out of it again. The squad members are heard talking among themselves with one of them goading the other to open fire.

Mr. Balachandra said subsequently the same elephant was goaded back into the jungle. “This is a problematic elephant which frequently strays into villages on the other of the forest border and hence the operation was on to goad the elephant back into the jungles which was successful,” said Mr. Balachandra.

However, he said that disciplinary action was being initiated against the staff while activists have also raised questions about the behaviour of the staff.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 2:18:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/act-of-tusker-being-fired-at-sparks-outrage/article31046641.ece

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