Sonu, an elephant calf- who was captured from the wild seven months ago and allegedly subjected to brutality by the state forest department staff is set to return to the wild again. Chhattisgarh forest officials and Wildlife Trust of India have agreed to release the pachyderm after intervention of Chhattisgarh high court.
The elephant calf is presently chained at Achanakmar Tiger Reserve. PCCF Wildlife has agreed to release the pachyderm in the wild in writing before Chhattisgarh high court, which will make the final decision within two weeks.
Sonu was tranquilized and captured after it strayed from its herd and wandered into the tiger reserve, killing five people and injuring three. Following a PIL by wildlife enthusiast Nitin Singhvi, HC took the hearing within a day, asking state to submit a report, while Animal Welfare Board of India also recommended conducting an inquiry and initiating disciplinary action for alleged shabby treatment towards the young tusker.
Forest department informed the court that experts from WTI would help them rehabilitate the elephant within two months. WTI officials said Sonu was capable of surviving in the wild and it’s movements would be monitored for two years after its release via a satellite transmitter attached to it.
“The area where Sonu is to be released should not have any human settlements in the vicinity and should contain plenty of grass and water. A team of veterinary doctors would camp around the forest to deal with emergency if any,” WTI senior director and chief veterinarian Ashraf NVK said in a letter. He said Sonu was given some training while it had been kept tethered all these months. WTI has in the past rehabilitated semi-trained elephants confiscated in Arunachal Pradesh successfully.
During the previous hearing on June 20, forest department had suggested setting up an elephant rescue centre worth Rs 1.75 crore on a land of 50 hectare and keep Sonu along with three other tuskers, but the proposal was rejected by court that asked the department to submit a fresh rehabilitation proposal.