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Dawn-to-dusk jumbo headache for forest dept

Ashwini YS, Mysore, Dec 2, 2013, DHNS: 1:53 IST
out of home: The herd of eight elephants that camped at a farm on the outskirts of Mysore on Monday. dh photo
A herd of eight wild elephants, including a calf, from Omkara forest range in Bandipur National Park, which made their way towards the outskirts of Mysore city, was the last thing that the harassed Forest department expected.

The elephants, which crossed River Kabini and made their way through villages of Nanjangud taluk, were spotted by the owner of a coconut farm on Mysore-Mananthavadi Road, just four km away from the city, at 6 am on Monday.

The early morning scare sent the department officials into a tizzy, who were seen scrambling about to make sure that the elephants did not venture into the city.

The herd, comprising four females, three tuskers and a calf stationed themselves in the farm of Veerabhadra, owner of Mysore Tarpaulins, all day long.

Forest officials of Mysore division who have been spending sleepless nights monitoring and stalling the movement of elephants and the killer tiger into human habitations were not prepared to handle the eager crowds.

The people climbed trees and even pelted stones in the direction of the jumbos that patiently stood in one place.

Until early afternoon, department officials were seen trying to coordinate with the police department to control the crowds. By the time MLA Somashekar and other top officers made it to the spot, police platoons were stationed in place, on the periphery of the farm.

According to Nanjangud Range Forest Officer Jayashekar, the elephants were part of a larger herd of 30 elephants that the department had been trying to drive away into the forest for the last couple of days.

“The entire herd stationed itself in the sugar cane fields at Heggadahalli in Nanjangud taluk on Sunday morning. We thought we had succeeded in driving them away towards Omkara on Sunday evening. However, it looks like this herd has separated from the larger herd and made its way towards Mysore,” he said.

There were tense moments all through the day, as the department realised that there is only one way to drive the herd back to the forests - through the same route it had taken overnight.

For, on side there was the HD Kote main road, leading towards Mysore city and the Varuna Canal on the other side. Strategies were drawn up to bring in kumki/captive elephants to drive the herd away after sunset. By the time the captive elephants were brought to Mysore from different camps, the herd started moving, by around 5.30 pm. It was headed in the direction of Mysore city. The department personnel started bursting crackers, which scared the elephants, forcing them to change their direction.

But large crowds that were waiting on the periphery of the farm made the elephants wary, stopping them right in their tracks. Forest officials then had to clear the crowd and force the elephants to move again by bursting crackers. By 6.30 pm, the elephants were off Kalavadi road, adjacent to the farm.

S D Gaonkar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mysore, told Deccan Herald that the elephants had crossed Talur by about 8.30 pm.

“A large team has been deployed to ensure that the elephants don’t stray into villages. As a backup, we are stationing the captive elephants in Mysore - anything can happen overnight, and we might need their assistance,” he added.

Official sources said that by nightfall the team lost track of the elephants. The team was said to be stationed at Talur overnight.

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