Wild elephant calf trapped (Coimbatore, India)


V.S. Palaniappan, The Hindu

Date Published

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Suffering from inflammation of oral cavity, the jumbo has been raiding houses, hotels for ‘soft’ food

A three-year-old male elephant calf with inflammatory wounds in its oral cavity that was raiding houses and hotels in search of food was tranquillised on Tuesday afternoon and shifted to the Chadivayal elephant camp of the Forest Department at the foothills of Siruvani.

The calf, which was part of a six-member herd, had been attracting the attention of the people of Thadagam, Kanuvai and Mangarai in the last one month. On knowing about the inflammatory wound in its mouth, the Forest Department first darted medicines and later provided it with antibiotics stuffed in ragi balls. After this, the calf started showing symptoms of improvement.

However, it suddenly vanished one day, and for the last three days, the calf and its mother started venturing out of the forest a little before dusk. The duo started raiding hotels and houses in search of soft/human food as the wounds made it difficult for the calf to consume food such as dry fodder in the wild. This triggered wide-spread protests from farmers and residents, and in a bid to combat the situation, the Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, I. Anwardeen, and District Forest Officer S. Ramasubramanian constituted a team comprising 60 personnel. Meanwhile, Pari, the tamed/trained kumki elephant from Chadivayal, was also positioned at Mangarai to tackle the mother and her calf.

Struck by hunger pangs

On sensing the presence of the kumki, the mother and calf stayed back inside the forests and never ventured out on Mondayafternoon. But, the calf, unable to withstand hunger, came out of the forests alone on Tuesday afternoon and entered the forest staff quarters near the Mangarai Reserve Forests Rest House. It came there attracted by the scent of the food stock kept for kumki Pari. A jeep was parked at the gate to block the exit of the calf. With the concurrence of Chief Wildlife Warden, a decision was taken to tranquillise and translocate the calf.

A team led by Forest Veterinarian N.S. Manoharan, Range Officers C. Dinesh Kumar and M. Nazeer commenced the operation to tranquilise the elephant.

Logistical assistance and volunteers were provided by the Nature Conservation Society led by its President N.I. Jalaludeen. Prior to the commencement of the operation, the officials, through a window, offered food such as water melons, plantains and ragi balls to the starving calf. At about 1.45 p.m., Dr. Manoharan, using a dart gun, tranquillised the calf through the window. At around 3 p.m., it was made to board a truck and was offloaded at the Chadivayal camp at about 5 p.m.

A revivon injection was also administered to the calf to help it come out of sedation. It was later provided with antibiotics, tetanus, multi vitamins, mineral mixtures and supplements, besides a nutritious diet.

The animal would be confined at the Chadivayal camp for the next few days and the treatment would continue. Thereafter, a decision on whether to domesticate the calf or to release it in the wild would be taken by the top brass of the Forest Department, officials said.