Bengaluru: Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Gajendra and Harsha are on a rescue mission. They traversed 800km in two long trucks — from Hunsur forest range in Mysuru district to Sawantwadi in Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra – where hundreds of villagers waited eagerly for them.
For the villagers, fed up with rogue elephants ruining their crops and lives, the crack team of four macho tuskers come as knights in shining armour.
On them rests the peace of the area. Local forest officials, having failed to trap the rampaging herd, looked south towards Karnataka’s famed Dasara elephants, known for their ability to trap and tame wild elephants. This is not the first time elephants from Karnataka are being called on for such rescue operations.
Be it Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, jumbos from Karnataka have turned into saviours because of their sheer experience in dealing with conflict situations, a result of the high population of elephants here. Elephants housed in various camps dotting the forest ranges of Karnataka have been trained, and are now considered experts.
Leading the pack are Dasara elephant Arjuna, along with Abhimanyu, Gajendra and Harsha, on a conflict mitigation operation in Maharashtra. Forest officials say these elephants are part of over 150 elephant capture operations in the past two decades.
“Be it a native problem of wild elephants entering human habitations in towns or damaging crops in villages, camp elephants from Mysuru division and other centres in the state are sought after for their courage and reliability during such operations. Recently, we got a request from Maharashtra to send Abhimanyu and his team on a rescue operation. They agreed to pay the transport cost and other expenditure. The tuskers have reached with their mahouts and doctors. They are like officers on deputation and I’m confident they will finish their job efficiently,” said Ajai Misra, additional PCCF (wildlife), forest department, a hint of pride in his voice.
Misra said all the necessary protocol, including halts on the way, and requisite fodder supply, were followed while transporting the jumbos in two long trucks to Maharashtra.
R Gokul, CCF, forest department, said the efforts was already showing. “On Monday morning, I got a call from a forest official from Maharashtra who said they were able to locate the rogue elephant in the forest with the help of Abhimanyu’s gang. This is crucial as locating the right elephant goes a long way in capturing them,” he added.
Abhimanyu, the king
For such operations, Abhimanyu is the natural choice. Aged 48 and named after the famous character from Mahabharata, who fought bravely in Chakravyuha, Abhimanyu has been part of over 100 elephant capture operations so far. Forest officials, aware of his bravery, have named him the ‘king of the forest’. He is like a troubleshooter for us, said an official.
Capturing their wild counterparts comes easy to the Mysuru tuskers, and dates back to the 1990s, when a team was sent to capture 22 rogue elephants in Chhattisgarh. The elephants were also part of rescue operations in Goa. “Last year, Abhimanyu, Balaram and other elephants were used to train mahouts in Odisha, Goa and Maharashtra on mitigating human-elephant conflict situations,” said a forest official.
Courageous and reliable
Be it a native problem of wild elephants entering human habitations in towns or damaging crops in villages, camp elephants from Mysuru division and other centres in the state are sought after for their courage and reliability during such operations.
We feel safe with them
The camp elephants are not only daring but also efficient in commanding and executing the operation. They ensure the safety of mahouts perched atop them during the task. The basic instincts of these elephants are strong and they plan how to trap the rogues efficiently. Even forest officials feel safe with such strong jumbos around.
Taking four elephants on an 800km journey wasn’t easy for the mahouts and other team members. Detailing the journey, R Gokul, CCF, forest department, said, “Each elephant can eat up to 200kg of grass a day and it’s difficult to carry so much fodder along. Since they are in the habit of eating continuously, we made sure the route passed through forest ranges so they had enough greenery to eat during breaks.”
The team, which left on Friday afternoon, reached Shivamogga, about 250km away, and stopped for the night. The tuskers grazed through the night and had their fill of water. The next day’s route was again through the forest ranges covering Sagar, Sirsi, Dandeli and Belagavi, before they reached Maharashtra on Sunday morning.
Gokul said the team had enough stock of jaggery, paddy powder, horse gram, as supplements along the journey.
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