A rogue elephant notorious for breaking into grocery stores to steal rice and damaging human settlements in the Chinnakanal and Santhanpara areas of this hilltop district was reassured on Saturday after months of uncertainty and confusion.
Mission Arikomban, named after the boar, started at 4am on Saturday and lasted until 6pm. The elephant was in the Periyar tiger reserve and is released 20 km deep in the forest.
State Forest Minister AK Saseendran said the radio collar attached to the elephant will alert officials to its movement and allow them to take the necessary precautions should it venture into human habitation again.
However, he did not disclose the exact location where the elephant would be released. The Supreme Court had previously ordered the Kerala Forest Department not to reveal the location.
“Forest officials have taken all necessary precautions (for the elephant’s relocation),” the minister told PTI.
Saseendran said the government had proposed various sites before the Supreme Court and that this particular reserve was chosen because its climatic conditions were similar to those of the Chinnak Channel.
Located in the southern region of the Western Ghats, the Periyar Tiger Reserve covers an area of 777 km² and is home to a lush collection of different species of flora and fauna.
Previously, the task force had a rough day, braving heavy rain and fog as they attempted to calm the elephant and load it onto a truck with the help of four Kumki elephants. The Kumki elephants, which are trained to catch and capture wild tusks, managed to successfully push the rough tusk into the truck despite much resistance.
The task force spotted the elephant Arikomban near Suryanelli in the morning and a tranquilizer team led by Dr. Arun Zacharia surrounded the area.
Luckily for the task force team, the elephant did not go deeper into the forest and the first stun shot was fired at 11.55am, followed by the first reinforcements at 12.40pm. Five more booster shots were then given.
However, task force members could not cover the wild elephant’s eyes with a black cloth to keep him calm. They used an excavator’s arm to reach the top of the animal in the truck to attach a GPS-enabled radio collar, insisted by the Kerala High Court.
The Arikomban mission had endured several controversies, with animal rights activists opposing the Forest Service’s move to capture and tame him to turn him into a Kumki elephant at the Kodanad Elephant Center in Ernakulam district.
They petitioned the High Court which, after hearing the plea, stopped the department’s move.
The court set up a committee of experts to investigate the matter. The panel suggested relocating the elephant to a wild area where there would be no conflict with humans.
The committee had proposed moving the elephant to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. Protests soon broke out in the Parambikulam area, with residents fiercely opposed to the move. The Supreme Court then ordered the Kerala government to release it at a location of its choice and told them to keep the location secret.
The locals of Chinnakanal and Santhanpara had risen up against the renegade elephant and demanded its removal from their territory. The site, sandwiched between the Anayirangal Dam on one side and several tribal settlements on the other, has many more elephants that have been denied passage.
Although an elephant is now being removed from the area, experts said the problem is far from over.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)
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