June 30, 2017
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Six months after being hemmed into a kraal, Ranga was a pale shadow of his former self as he emerged from the enclosure at the elephant camp at Bannerghatta National Park. The 40-year-old elephant was once the “terror” of villages around Savanadurga forests. In the coming weeks, he will be trained to help capture other “rogue” elephants.
At dawn on Thursday, Ranga, whom angry villagers had nicknamed ‘Rowdy’ at one time, waited for commands from mahouts. A platoon of mahouts and trainers surrounded the animal which was kraal-bound for 184 days after being captured in Bhanatarakuppe Forest near Magadi.
“He is very calm and cool now. The training outdoors may take up to two months. He is already responding well to commands by mahouts,” said Javeed Mumtaz, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bannerghatta National Park. Mahouts at Bannerghatta said the process of taming has not been easy so far, with the elephant having damaged previous kraals. Further training over the coming days will see the “tamed” tusker being used either for operations to capture other “rogue” elephants or even for patrolling the hinterlands of forests.
In December 2016, 70 forest personnel scoured through the area in search for Ranga in the wake of crop-raiding incidents that created pressure for his capture. The elephant first made news in 2006 after killing a farmer, and after that, he and his gang of 11 became symbols of man-animal conflict. During Ranga’s capture, officials had said the herd had caused losses totalling ?1 crore annually.
Airavata, another tusker from Ranga’s group, was also captured and is still confined in its kraal.
‘Ranga’s spirit broken’
However, the capture of Ranga had seen an online campaign demanding the elephant’s release. Rakshith Gowda, a medical student who spearheaded the campaign, said Ranga’s walk on Thursday made it evident that the “spirit of a wild animal” had been broken.
“It is now domesticated, and cannot survive in the wild. When we visited him, it was clear that he was not adjusting well to his confinement,” he said. With Ranga’s release out of the question, the campaign is now focussing on shifting Ranga to a camp with more space and natural forest grounds in the Western Ghats.
Manjunath N., the founder of Nature and Wildlife Committee who has been following Ranga for over 11 years, said it was “saddening” to see the tusker having lost its natural instincts.
“There is no logic in capturing and taming the animal. Conflict in these areas has not reduced. Other elephants now roam in this corridor, as seen from the attack on CRPF jawans recently at Kaggalipura,” he said.