The Madras High Court on Wednesday permitted Forest Department officials to capture translocated crop-raiding wild elephant Chinna Thambi of Thadagam valley in Coimbatore district since there was no difference of opinion between the officials and animal rights activists on the need for capturing the animal.
However, in so far as the important issue as to whether the pachyderm should be kept in captivity for life after being captured or should another attempt be made to let it into the forest was concerned, a Division Bench of Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad said, they would take a call on it on a later date.
During the hearing of public interest litigation petitions filed by two different animal welfare organisations, Advocate General Vijay Narayan informed the court that elephant expert Ajay Desai had opined that there was no use in letting the animal into the forests because it had got habituated to soft food and would come back to raid crops.
He said that already an attempt made by the forest officials to send it back into the forests had failed. The animal had travelled around 20 kilometres in no time to get out of the forest and walked into human habitations situated about 15 kilometres away from the forest boundary much to the surprise of the forest officials.
Stating that the animal’s behaviour was not only a threat to humans and the crops raised by the farmers with much difficulty, he said, rampaging through human habitations was not safe for the animal, assessed to be below 20 years of age, too since it might fall into open wells in agricultural fields or even get electrocuted.
However, advocate Rahul Balaji representing one of the PIL petitioners, insisted that after capturing the animal, another attempt should be made to let it into the forests. Opposing the forest department’s move to keep the animal in captivity forever, he said, there was no hard and fast rule that an attempt could be made only once.
He also claimed that Chinna Thambi as such had not harmed any human being so far. The A-G, on his part, said, a female elephant that accompanied Chinna Thambi out of the forests had killed a local villager. Further, on another occasion, a male elephant that was accompanying Chinna Thambi had taken one more life.
After hearing elaborate arguments advanced by the counsel, the judges reserved their verdict on the main cases and passed an interim order permitting the forest department to capture the animal with the assistance of Kumkis (aggressive captive elephants trained by forest department to bring other elephants under control) and mahouts.