Lone Tusker Turns ‘Forest Guard’ at Jawadhu


By J Shanmugha Sundaram, New Indian Express

Date Published

See link for photo of the lone tusker

VELLORE:  An aged tusker, separated from its herd three years ago, has turned into a lone ranger in Jawadhu Hills in the Western Ghats. Though aging has reduced its movement and dimmed its eyesight, its presence still keeps away trespassers from the reserve forest. 

The pachyderm, according to forest officials, is a protective factor for the forest area as many fear stepping into the woods due to its presence. The tusker, aged around 57 years, confines its movement between Ambur range and Jamunamaruthur range ever since it was separated from its herd in 2012.

“Now it is moving quite slowly, for about five to six km per day due to age-related problems. Its eyesight has also been affected,” said a senior forest official.

There is no history of this tusker attacking human beings. But blocking vehicles transporting vegetables along Alangayam-Odugathur Road and eating some vegetables is a habit of this lone tusker. In fact, regular road users wait for the tusker to move and then proceed,” said a senior forest official.

The aged pachyderm migrated to the Jawadhu Hills from its original habitat Rayakotta in 1988. It was part of a 13-member herd then. Construction work on the NH 46 destroyed the elephant corridor between Ambur and Pernambur area and cut off the herd from its original habitat. Since then, the herd was trapped in Jawadhu Hills and migrating from Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram, Tirupattur and  Vellore forest divisions, resulting in human-animal conflict. Ten people were trampled to death and the elephants marauded hundreds of areas of crops when they strayed into human habitation in search of food between 2009 and 2012.

Two adult tuskers of the herd, turned rogue and killed three persons in Ambur forest range and were captured in 1992 and later trained.

While one tusker remained deep inside Jawadhu Hills, the rest of the herd migrated to Tiruvannamalai.

“The herd remained inside the forest till 2008. Depletion of food and water forced the herd to stray into human habitation,” said a forest official and added that an elephant needs around 250 to 300 litres of water and 200 kg of food per day and Jawadhu Hills is not fit to be a long-term home for these mammals.

To keep human-animal conflicts in check, the government carried out a major tranquillising and translocating of the herd. But the `73-lakh project was incomplete as the forest officials translocated six elephants leaving the one tusker to wander in loneliness.

“Now it’s called a ‘Othaiyanai’ or the ‘lone ranger’,” said the forest official.

The forest officials are worried about its health and said it would only survive a few more years. Once it dies, the Jawadhu Hills will never see such a majestic creature again, they said.