Wild tusker Kusha, who escapade from Dubare elephant camp into the jungles to find companions had the Forest Department on tenterhooks for months, has won his freedom.
His release from the camp was ordered by Forest Minister Aravind Limbavali on Wednesday after a prolonged discussion with the officials.
Though captured from the wild near Chettahalli in Madikeri forest division five years ago and put in a Kraal in Dubare and tamed, it did not crush his spirit and he yearned for freedom.
Tamed elephants are left free to forage in the vicinity of the camp and they invariably return. The elephants also move out for prolonged period during “musth” though they tend to return after a few weeks.
But it was not the case with Kusha who went missing for almost an year, leaving camp managers tense. A search party was sent but to no avail and there were speculations that perhaps he had died or that he had crossed over to the other forest range beyond Nagarahole landscape. But, he was finally sighted in the wild in the company of other free ranging elephants.
On confirming that it was Kusha, attempts were made to recapture him but the elephant resisted or invariably escaped each time. After repeated attempts, the tusker was captured with the help of four tamed elephants in March and herded back to Dubare. But not without Kusha putting up a stiff resistance. The story of his resistance and love for freedom reached animal rights activists, who called for his immediate release.
A few days ago, Maneka Gandhi, MP, had called for Kusha’s release from the jungle camp. It was backed by other activists on the grounds that though captured, Kusha had escaped into the jungles and was living in the wild since a year without harming anyone. The Forest Department on its part had justified its recapture on the grounds that Kusha was originally brought to the camp five years ago to control human-elephant conflict and was not being ill-treated as alleged.
The activists suggested that Kusha be radio-collared.
In the meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Limbavalli approved of the suggestion and directed that Kusha be radio-collared and set free. The move was welcomed by conservationists too who had questioned the authorities for recapturing an elephant that had “settled well” in the wild, and had not harmed anyone.