Sixty four-year-old Arjuna, the elephant that carried the golden howdah during the Dasara procession, died in a fight with a wild elephant during the elephant capture operation near Yeslur in Sakleshpur on Monday.
The Forest Department had been conducting the operation to capture troublesome tuskers in the Sakleshpur, Alur, Belur and Yeslur ranges of Hassan. During the operation, a wild tusker attacked Arjuna, who succumbed to injuries he suffered in the stomach, according to preliminary reports. The incident has forced the department to stop the operation.
Arjuna carried the 750-kg howdah during the Dasara procession eight times until 2019, when he turned 60. Besides that, the animal participated in many elephant capture operations.
During the operation on the day, the Forest Department staff identified a tusker for capture. The team noticed a herd of 12 elephants. As per the procedure, the target elephant had to be separated from the group for capture.
It is said that the staff, with the help of tamed elephants, separated the tusker and fired the tranquilliser dart to sedate the animal. Under the influence of the tranquilliser, the tusker charged the tamed elephants. While other tamed elephants withdrew, Arjuna stood firm to face.
Anticipating danger, the caretakers and other team members left the place. Arjuna engaged with the tusker, suffered deep wounds, and succumbed a few minutes later. The death left the caretakers and staff members in grief.
Venu, caretaker of Arjuna, fell unconscious as he learned about the death. He has been shifted to a hospital in Sakleshpur. He has been associated with the animal for years.
The operation to fix radio collars on nine wild elephants began in Belur taluk on November 24. The tamed elephants, including Arjuna, were brought in to conduct the operation.
So far, the department has succeeded in capturing two tuskers for translocation and fixing radio collars on three female elephants. The radio collars are fixed around the neck after sedating them so that their movement can be traced. The department informs the local public in elephant-affected areas about the movement of herds to avoid human-elephant conflicts.
Many elephants have been roaming in parts of Alur, Belur, Sakaleshpur taluks leaving the local people in fear. The herds damage crops, causing a huge loss to farmers. In the last 10 years, more than 75 people have died in elephants attacks in Hassan district. The local people have been demanding the government capture all elephants and translocate them.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said he felt hurt after learning about the death of Arjuna, the elephant, the main attraction of the historic Mysuru Dasara.
“The majestic walk of Arjun remains etched in the memory of lakhs of people like me,” he said in his post on X.