The move by the forest department to release a ‘problem’ elephant, captured from Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS), back to the wild sparked off public protests on Thursday. The department has put the directive on hold following the agitation.
Congress workers created a blockade in front of Muthanga forest range office here. The protesters even barged into the office compound.
According to sources, additional chief secretary of the department had verbally instructed WWS authorities on Wednesday to immediately release the 30- year-old elephant. The move was reportedly following the intervention of several animal welfare organizations that started a campaign seeking the release of the jumbo, which is currently kept in a temporary kraal at Muthanga here.
However, the order is against the suggestions of a technical committee constituted by the chief wildlife warden to explore the possibility of releasing the tusker back to the forests. The 7-member committee comprising forest officials, forest veterinarians and environmental activists have recommended that the tusker should be kept in captivity in semi- wild conditions and should be trained as kumki, to be used to deal with human- elephant conflict operations.
The committee was of the view that it is impossible to release the animal as it was identified as a perpetual crop raider and it would create more problem if released.
Though the committee considered the proposal to release the elephant to forests outside Wayanad district, but decided against it as there had been similar incidents that resulted in serious human- elephant conflict. The committee also opined that there was no habitat available in north of Palakkad Gap to translocate animal to the wild.
The forest department had radio- collared the elephant in February to monitor its movements and has found that during the non- musth period it engaged in extensive crop raiding in villages bordering the forests. The tusker was captured on November 22.