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Forest dept on trail of killer tusker

Alur (Hassan dist), Ashwini Y S, Nov 21, 2013, DHNS :

Rogue animal kills two people in Hassan, leaves residents in panic

ON THE TRAIL: Dartsman and forest watcher 'Aane' Venkatesh loads a tranquiliser dart into his rifle. dh photo

With two human deaths reported in quick succession this past week, the State Forest department was left with no choice but to immediately swing into action on Thursday to capture a lone tusker that is said to have gone rogue.

Fear has gripped the taluks of Alur and Sakleshpur in Hassan district the last three to four days, as a herd of around 15 elephants have been seen rampaging farmlands and plantations, causing destruction worth lakhs of rupees, apart from posing a threat to human lives.

People in the said taluks, along with Yesalur, have been living in constant fear for the last many years owing to the continued man-animal conflict. With 36 human deaths reported in the last decade alone, the troubled cries of the people of the region, discussed in length even on the floor of the House, finally found reprieve in the court of law, which had left the course of the action to be taken to the discretion of the State government.

The exercise assumes significance because the department had only been readying itself to capture and hold captive the 30 identified elephants belonging to the Alur range only in January 2014. It, however, had to make a quick decision on Wednesday, after the tusker attacked and killed two people – Rudraiaha (48), and Mylari (35), on November 16 and 19, respectively.

The department personnel led by three experienced veterinarians, Dr Chittiappa, Dr Nagaraj and Dr Umashankar, began tracking the elephant early Thursday morning.
The team, which was uncertain of finding the animal on day one, was however in luck. Around 2 pm, the tusker was seen roaming in the forests near Kaganur, and the three experts decided it would be best to make good of the opportunity and capture the animal immediately.

Large team

Within no time, a large team of 70 personnel lodged at a temporary camp near Kallare, travelled over six kilometres along with five ‘kumki’ elephants – Abhimanyu, Gajendra, Sri Rama, Vikrama, and Prashantha – to capture the wild animal.
The operation, which began at 4.40 pm, saw experienced dartsman ‘Aane’ Venkatesh, who incidentally belongs to the same range, setting off on the hunt, armed with a tranquiliser.

As news about the operation spread, local media personnel and surrounding villagers started trickling in, leaving the forest officials flustered. The officials complained that rescue operations on most instances have been getting delayed because of the huge crowds that gather and create a lot of noise.
The exercise, however, has brought much cheer to the villagers who have been waiting for this moment for years.

By about 6 pm, news came through that the tusker had sensed the crowd and had begun to run about, making it difficult for the team to aim at the animal.

Venkatesh, later speaking to Deccan Herald, said the tusker had run away because of the presence of captive elephant Abhimanyu. “He could easily pick up the smell of the tamed elephant. I was just three metres away from the wild animal, and it yet became very difficult to aim at him,” he said. This is the 60th elephant that Venkatesh is capturing.

Confident of success

Forest officials are, however, not too worried about losing track of the elephant, because of his unique feature. “The elephant’s left hind leg is much smaller than its other legs. So, the footprints he leaves behind make it easier for us to track his whereabouts,” said Dr Nagaraj.

Once caught, the animal will be transported by a truck to Mattigodu elephant camp, where he will be kept in a kraal and tamed. Officials said it might take more than three months for it to be completely tamed.

The search operation will resume early on Friday morning.


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