Taming tusker terror: Alpha male duo to be de-tusked, strapped with radio collars (Bhubaneswar, India)


Siba Mohanty, The New Indian Express

Date Published

Two male elephants of Angul Circle, known to be one of the worst
man-animal conflict zones of Odisha, are all set to get their tusks
trimmed and strapped with radio collars for running rogue in Dhenkanal
and Angul districts of the State.

One of them, belonging to Kamakhyanagar in Dhenkanal, is said to be
responsible for death of over 20 persons whereas the other one, in
Angul’s Athamallik, is believed to have been involved in a similar
series of mishaps over the last few years. The loss of lives apart,
the jumbos have been facing ire of the local populace for house damage
and crop raids.

The Wildlife Wing of the State Government has stopped short of
declaring them rogue but has decided to de-tusk them to curb their
aggression which could arrest depradation in the area. Tusks act as a
secondary sexual character in males. Bigger the tusk, more dominant
the elephants become among the group and it also helps them lure
females, turning them into alpha males.

The Wildlife Wing which has been consulting experts about the issue
has decided that it would, as a pilot measure, de-tusk these two
jumbos and radio collar them for surveillance.

Subject experts say trimming of the tusks leads to reduced aggression
since the males lose that aura among the group.

Besides, they also use tusks to dig tuber and carry load and when such
abilities are gone, they are less likely to be aggressive.

Contacted, Chief Wildlife Warden Sidhanta Das said the Wildlife Wing
has consulted eminent ecologist Dr Raman Sukumaran of Indian Institute
of Science (IISC) for the initiative so that the two elephants can be
tranquillised for both trimming of tusks as well as radio collaring.
“We hope the de-tusking will curb their violent nature,” he said.

The radio collars will be custom-made and operated through SIM cards.
Before the tranquillisation is decided, the radio collars would have
to be ordered and designed.

Each installation of radio collar, data charges of the SIM cards, GIS
troubleshooting and other technical support are estimated to cost
about `3.65 lakh per year. The project is likely to be taken up for
three to five years.

The Wildlife Wing has submitted proposals to Project Elephant as well
as the State Government for funding support.

Angul Circle is a high friction zone for both man and elephants.
Growing industrialisation has induced wider road network and power
infrastructure while the Rengali Dam has left the elephants of the
region almost islanded, thereby turning them aggressive.