Tamil Nadu

Chinna Thambi to be tamed as a kumki

Taking a breather: Chinna Thambi spotted resting near a swamp at Krishnapuram near Udumalpet in Tirupur on Saturday.

Taking a breather: Chinna Thambi spotted resting near a swamp at Krishnapuram near Udumalpet in Tirupur on Saturday.  

Fans of the 25-year-old elephant protest against the decision and call for its return to its home in Thadagam valley

It was in the early hours of January 26 that Chinna Thambi, the wild elephant of Thadagam valley, was translocated to the dense woods of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) at Varagaliar near Top Slip.

Had it been at Thadagam valley, it would have been a perfect time for the jumbo to move on from one field to another, devouring his favourite crops, ranging from maize to banana. But the dense forests of Varagaliar, nearly 110 km from his home turf, seemed strange to the elephant.

Habitual crop raider

“Chinna Thambi is habituated to crop raiding. Can it change its habits? The Forest Department has, so far, resorted to all sorts of negative conditioning methods, failing which, the elephant was translocated,” said Ajay Desai, a consultant to WWF-India and member of the Asian Elephants Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The 25-year-old jumbo after spending five days in the elevated forest, started descending the hills late on January 30. Its location was tracked using the radio collar on its neck.

Early on January 31, the elephant got out of the forest boundary and crossed nearly eight villages near Pollachi before disappearing into the forests of Gopalsamy hills at 9.30 a.m. after traversing over 40 km from Varagaliar. During the three-and-half hour journey, the elephant crossed narrow lanes of residential areas, coconut groves, and sugarcane fields. But it barely threatened anyone in its path, despite the fact that the forest staff burst firecrackers to shake him off course.

No harm to humans

“Chinna Thambi is not known to attack people, though the pachyderm would lead a team to raid crops. It should have been allowed to roam in Thadagam valley,” said G.P.N. Joshua, a social worker from Thadagam valley and a member of the newly formed Chinna Thambi Fan Club, now campaigning with the hashtag ‘#BringBackChinnathambi’.

Though the Forest Department was relieved, Gopalsamy hills served only for half-a-day’s halt for the tusker. It started moving towards human settlements and was spotted at the Nalamoolai Sungam village near Udumalpet in the early hours of February 1.

But day two was a tiring one as the animal have covered nearly 45 km, crossing five villages. Forest staff lit dry coconut leaves and flashed them to drive out the elephant from farms. The day-long run ended after it entered a sugarcane field at Ammapatti in the evening.

However on day three, around 25 km from Ammapatti, became crucial for the elephant as policy-level decisions were already being made to halt its journey. Minister for Forests Dindigul C. Sreenivasan made it clear on Saturday that Chinna Thambi would have to be captured and tamed into a kumki.

‘No other options’

“There are no other options. It has to be captured again (to be tamed as kumki),” said Mr. Sreenivasan in Coimbatore. According to him, the Forest Department have taken every possible initiative to rehabilitate the wild elephant, first by driving it out to the Thadagam valley forests and then translocating it to Varagaliar forest near Top Slip.

“The government has a larger role to protect the lives of the people and their agricultural fields” he added. But the elephants fans were shocked on Saturday after videos showed him lying near a swamp at Krishnapuram near Udumalpet.

“The elephant was left free to roam as chances were high for it to get exhausted. The staff merely followed to keep the public alerted about its movement,” said Dhanapal, Forest Range Officer of Udumalpet. Chinna Thambi’s fans staged a demonstration in Coimbatore on the same day, protesting against Mr. Sreenivasan’s announcement.

Veteran kumki Khaleem, which was used to capture Chinna Thambi from Thadagam, was being taken to Udumalpet to recapture the wild elephant.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:06:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/chinna-thambi-to-be-tamed-as-a-kumki/article26164475.ece

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