A day after they set out to capture and translocate wild tusker Arikompan, the members of the special task force of the Forest department succeeded in the mission after a gruelling day-and-night operation on Saturday. Tranquilised and hemmed in by four kumki elephants, the tusker put up stiff resistance but finally allowed itself to be pushed into the loading bay of a specially equipped truck which left Chinnakkanal late evening.
Driving rain and thick fog threatened to hamper the operation but finally, the animal was radio-collared and loaded on to the truck, to be transported about 100 km away. It will be released into the Periyar wildlife sanctuary by night.
After hours of intense search inside the deep forests, the tusker came under the team’s surveillance around 9 a.m. on Saturday near the Suryanelli hills at Chinnakkanal, Idukki. Firecrackers were burst to force the elephant to come down to Vilakk, near Cement Palam, around 11 a.m. Chief Forest Veterinary Surgeon Arun Zacharia fired the first tranquilizer shot around 11.35 a.m., which was followed by four booster doses. Four kumki elephants then managed to guide the tusker to a location close to the road after about two hours.
Soon, a new path was hewed nearby using an earth mover and a truck was brought in. After a prolonged effort in heavy rain, the task force finally made the tusker enter the vehicle, which then left for Thekkady around 6 p.m. Hundreds of people were waiting on the roadside to catch a glimpse of the tusker. A she- elephant and a calf were seen roaming near truck, just before it left the spot.
Mr. Zacharia; High Range Circle Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Arun R.S.; Munnar Divisional Forest Officer Ramesh Bishnoi; Kottayam DFO N. Rajesh; Munnar Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Shantri Tom; and Devikulam range officer P.V. Vegi were part of the mission.
The tribal people of Chinnakkanal, however, did not appear so elated by the operation. “Capturing the tusker is not a practical way to address the human-elephant conflict in Chinnakkanal. The Forest department should focus on ensuring proper food for the wild elephants to prevent the menace,” said Manikandan, a local resident.