This troubleshooter ‘AK-47’ came to Forest dept’s rescue umpteen times (India)


Bosky Khanna, Deccan Herald

Date Published

Abhimanyu, the 51-year-old majestic tusker, is popularly known as ‘AK-47’ of the forest department. 

He earned this sobriquet not because of the destruction which the lethal weapon of that name is associated with, but for being the chief trouble­shooter for the department. He is considered the most dependable tusker of the department to capture rogue elephants. He has an experience of 50 operations to his credit. His latest operation was in 2013-14 to catch a rogue tusker and a makkana (male elephant without a tusk) near the Magadi forest.

Abhimanyu was used to capture elephants not just in Karnataka. He was part of a rescue operation in Madhya Pradesh in 1994. He has captured 197 elephants across India. Abhimanyu has also been used to capture and dart tigers.

Presently, he is leading a group of five elephants brought to capture three wild elephants roaming around Ramanagaram, Nelamangala and on the outskirts of the city.

A camp elephant of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (NTR), Abhimanyu stays with Balarama and Arjuna, tuskers which carry the golden howdah during the annual Dasara procession in Mysuru. “He is more popular than his companions because of his nature. He was trapped in a pit (khedda) operation near Hebbal in Mysuru and was brought to the camp at a very tender age. He has been very obedient and has trained well,” said S Manikandan, director of NTR.

Dr B C Chittiappa, a former veterinarian with the forest department, gave Abhimanyu the nickname AK-47, for his agility during rescue operations. “His small tusks were never a deterrent for the daredevil elephant. He uses his experience and spot skills in mock-charging and controlling other wild elephants during operations,” Chittiappa said.

Abhimanyu, unlike other tuskers, can be controlled even when he is in musth (heat) by his mahout. His first mahout was Sanappa, who had trained him well.

Sanappa has trained his son Vasanth to be Abhimanyu’s mahout. Abhimanyu is a popular presence in Dasara festivities and pulls the ‘Ane gadi’ (elephant cart) in the procession. He has been doing this dutifully for the last 10 years.