Operation Gaja goes awry in Chittoor district; tusker attacks kumkis (India)


K. Umashanker, The Hindu

Date Published

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Operation Gaja, meant to drive away the lone wild elephant from Karnataka forests which climbed up the Addagutta hillock of Ramasamudram mandal in Chittoor district, went awry on Friday, when the pachyderm attacked the two kumkis and their mahout before retreating to the hilltop. While the scared kumkis abandoned the foothills, the mahout ran for his life.

The elephant, which strayed into human habitation, ran up the nearby dense hillock after killing a farmer on Sunday. Since the last five days, forest officials from Kuppam, Palamaner, Madanapalle and Chittoor have been camping at the foothills, near Punganur, deploying two kumkis to accomplish ‘Operation Gaja’. Lumps of jaggery, sugarcane and vegetables have been placed at vulnerable areas in the foothills, in a bid to lure the elephant and tranquillise it. The tusker kept climbing down the hill in the early hours, grazing in the fields during the last four days, but was rushing back to the hilltop at the sight of the darting team.

In this process, the tranquillising party was waiting behind a tree, positioned towards the sugarcane dump in the early hours (called false dawn in the parlance of forest department). The kumkis were also kept ready for the operation to take on their wild counterpart.

All of a sudden, the tusker rushed down the hill, started attacking the kumkis and the mahout on one of them.

The frightened mahout had no option but to run for his life, abandoning the kumkis to fend for themselves. Around 7.30 a.m., the wild elephant was seen moving on the slopes of the hillock, while the mahout and the field staff refused to advance forward.

Divisional Forest Officer T. Chakrapani said the wild elephant had given the darting party a slip this morning. “We are doing out best to drive away it back into its habitat in Karnataka, without causing any harm to it. We have distributed pamphlets in the vulnerable villages to cooperate with the Operation Gaja team, and follow the norms as to what should be done while the operation is going on,” he said.