A jumbo-task forest sleuths can’t solve (Bhubaneswar, India)


New Indian Express

Date Published

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Barely 15 km from the State Capital, a 14-year-old elephant, its front left leg trapped in a tyre, has left the Forest Department at its wit’s end. The jumbo has changed its location from one forest division to another in the last one week but has managed to elude the field staff.
Currently located in the dense  parts of Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, the elephant has been giving the staff of the local division sleepless nights as successive attempts to track the jumbo for tranquillisation has failed.

The forest officials, on their part, are worried that the elephant could catch infection since the tyre is believed to have injured its leg. Any worsening of the infection could  pose threat to its life but the wound appears to have failed to deter the elephant’s wild instincts.

On Wednesday, the elephant moved from eastern parts of Chandaka to its western side giving the trackers of Chandaka division a tough time in the hilly and deciduous forests. It gave the field staff mock charge before disappearing in the forests. “Even when it is not being trailed, it is travelling at least 10 km a day inside the jungle where approaching the elephant is difficult,” said a forest official.

When it has men on its trail, the injured elephant covers more areas and seeks remote locations which the forest staff find difficult to access. Elephants are very intelligent animals and this one primarily from Chandaka has knowledge of nook and cranny of the forests. The Chandaka division has even employed local tribal trackers who are believed to be good at their job. “Some of these trackers can even track elephants from their smell from a distance without even sighting them but this pachyderm has eluded them too,” said a field staff who was part of the team.

DFO of Chandaka Kedar Swain, who has been monitoring the movement of the elephant, personally took part in the tracking exercise on Tuesday but the jumbo was so alert that it managed to give the teams a slip by a few metres just around dusk hours.

The forest officials changed the strategy of forming multiple teams and switched to a small group of about four members but that did not work.
Before heading to Chandaka, the elephant had roamed the Athagarh Division forests for about two weeks where all efforts to track and tranquillise it failed.