A tusker aged around 35 years was found shot dead in the Hunsur wildlife range of the Nagarahole National Park in Mysuru district on Saturday. The carcass was found close to Hoskere and post-mortem indicated that the bullet had pierced its left front forelimb and penetrated the lungs before getting embedded in the heart.
There were scratches and bruise injuries on its back and hence it was initially suspected to have died in a fight with another male. But post-mortem ruled it out when a bullet was found in the heart and was removed, according to veterinarian Umashankar. It is more likely that the elephant was part of a larger herd and the bruise marks may have been inflicted when the animals ran helter-skelter following the firing, he said.
The Nagarahole Park Director H.C. Kantharaj said it was not a case of poaching but of a conflict situation as they suspect a farmer to have opened fire during a crop raid.
A complaint has been filed with the police and the authorities have named a farmer suspected to have opened fire at the herd. The elephant had dragged itself from the field to a distance of 250-300 metres before collapsing in the forest. Mr. Kantharaj said the suspect was absconding and the police have launched a manhunt to nab him.
This is the first such incident reported from Nagarahole in recent times though elephant deaths due to electrocution was common in the region.
Nagarahole national park supports more over 1,000 elephants and is part of the Mysore Elephant Reserve where the elephant densities are high. But conflicts are also acute in the region and it was only recently that two elephants were captured by the Forest Department in the adjoining Kodagu district to reduce their frequent foray into human landscape.
A major portion of the Nagarahole boundary has been solar fenced but this is no barrier for elephants to move out as the Elephant Proof Trenches (EPT) and solar fence circumvent the physical boundary of the forests while elephants follow their ancient migratory pattern along what were once their natural habitat but have been converted to agricultural tracts over the years.