‘Sonu’ has survival instinct in wild: Study (India)


Roshan Chachane, The Hitavada

Date Published

See link for photo.

The veterinary expert has recommended release of ‘Sonu’ in natural habitat. The wild elephant is presently in the custody and care of Forest Department as keeping wild animals in captivity is inherently cruel. Report by Dr. Rakesh Chittora, Senior Veterinary Trainer, after assessment of the mental and physical health recommended this. 

Study was done to ascertain whether it is feasible to rehabilitate Sonu in pre-identified natural habitat on the order of the High Court and on the request of Achanakmar Tiger Reserve (ATR) Deputy Director. Elephants are kept at Sinhawal Sagar camp.

The veterinary trainer observed that Sonu, although, has developed a liking for concentrate food, and also closeness with the three other elephants at the Camp with partial obedience to commands of Mahouts, it certainly doesn’t mean that he has lost its fortitude and natural survival instinct. 

His liking to concentrate prepared food, closeness to other elephants and partial obedience to human commands only indicates that he understand the limitations of living in captivity, the need to fear humans and consequences of ignoring their commands. 
Unlike the canine and human, there can be no bonding between humans and wild animals, much less a Bull Elephant. He can never be trained or domesticated, but only tamed. 24 x 7 hobbling of forelegs of all four elephants and Mahouts needing a stick whenever approach close to them are lucid indication of the uneasy relation between human and elephants.

It’s to be noted here that as per Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Guidelines for care and management of captive elephants no owner shall permit use of nylon ropes or chain/hobbles with spikes or sharp edges for tying elephants. 

Unlike females (cow elephant), adult bull elephants are largely solitary and may form associations with other males and join herd of females for mating. These well-proven facts are enough to substantiate that the temporary captivity at ATR would not weaken Sonu’s survival instinct in wild.

Dr Chittora recommended International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines as reference for translocation procedure. Expertise of Wildlife Trust of India, which has successfully undertaken many such translocation projects of rehabilitating captive elephants in wild in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, could also be sought. Relocation also holds legal backing by Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which mandates rehabilitation of captured wild animals in wild as soon as possible to minimise mental and physical trauma. 

Sonu was in perfect physical and relatively better mental shape as observed by the experts. He was comfortable with other elephants always maintained a certain distance. A bull elephant’s life span in wild is about 60 to 70 years and Sonu is only 15-years-old at present, thus, he has the fortitude to lead quality life in wild.