On the trail of a bull elephant codenamed Palakkad Tusker-7

The elephant has gained notoriety by attacking a few people and raiding farmlands dozens of times in and around Dhoni

December 02, 2022 09:05 pm | Updated 09:05 pm IST - PALAKKAD

The Forest department has launched a massive drive to capture and tame an elephant that has been causing trouble for the people living in forest fringe areas in Puthupariyaram and Akathethara panchayats in Palakkad for the last several years.

The elephant has gained notoriety by attacking a few people and raiding farmlands dozens of times in and around Dhoni. It is suspected that the pachyderm, codenamed PT-7 (Palakkad Tusker-7), was the one that trampled a 60-year-old man to death while he was on his morning walk along with friends at Dhoni in July this year.

Palakkad divisional forest officer Sreenivas Kurra, who is leading the forest team on the trail of PT-7, said the medium-sized tusker, presumably 20-25 years old, kept moving around the fringe areas of Puthupariyaram and Akathethara. “In the last one year, it remained outside the forest for 180 days,” said Mr. Kurra.

Mr. Kurra was forced to approach the Chief Wildlife Warden with the demand for PT-7’s capture as people’s pressure increased in the wake of frequent raids by the animal.

The forest team has tracked PT-7 which appears to be 8 ft to 9 ft tall and is currently very aggressive. “It keeps on charging at us whenever it notices our members,” said Chief Forest Veterinary Officer Arun Zachariah, a key member of the team.

Dr. Zachariah told The Hindu that PT-7 is not so big but is hefty and aggressive. It was responsible for nearly 90% of the elephant conflicts in the region, and it continues to attract other tuskers into raiding human habitations.

The team is planning to tranquilise the elephant by chemical darting, and to carry it in a truck to Wayanad, where it will be trained and converted into a kumki. “It is not a simple process. It is laborious and risky,” chorused Mr. Kurra and Dr. Zachariah.

Although tranquilising appears not too risky a process, translocating the tusker under sedation to Wayanad 180 km away is. The vehicle carrying the bull elephant cannot travel faster than 20-30 km an hour, and it is expected to last at least eight to nine hours for the translocation.

“It is a complicated process. If the sedation is high, it is dangerous for the life of the animal. If it is low, the elephant will break the truck,” said Dr. Zachariah. “We are tracking and making a complete movement profile of the pachyderm. Although it is risky, we are confident. We have done it before,” he added.

Meanwhile, a kraal is being made in Wayanad for the confinement of the PT-7. The kraal is being built of Eucalyptus wood, and will be 15 x 15 ft wide and 18 ft high. As many as 70 to 80 Eucalyptus trees are needed.

“We prefer Eucalyptus because it can prevent injury for the animal when it hits the wooden enclosure. Eucalyptus gives flexibility and smoothness when other woods are too hard to prevent injury for the tusker,” said Mr. Kurra.

They said it would take at least one more week for the kraal to be ready. PT-7 will be kept in full captivity until tamed. “We have to translocate it because Wayanad has the infrastructure and better support system for converting the wild bull into a kumki,” said Mr. Kurra.

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