On the one hand mahouts and kaavadis at Mathigodu elephant camp have boycotted their duties and are protesting against the arrest of one of their colleagues and on the other hand, the elephants at the camp have gone on rampage and have damaged kitchen and godown at the camp.
The police had arrested a former contract employee of the forest department in connection with the forest fire at Mathigodu in Nagarahole range, in which more than 120 hectares of the forest area was reduced to ashes. In protest against the arrest, the Kaavadis and Mahouts have been staging a protest since Friday.
Without the mahouts to take care of the elephants, the forest department had let off the elephants inside the forest for food. As the forest is dry, the elephants returned back to the camp and started searching for food.
As they did not get any food, they went on rampage and damaged godown, kitchen and huts belonging to mahouts. On the other hand, four elephants which were caught near Hassan and have been lodged at Kraal in the camp are also not getting enough food.
Mahouts and kaavadis who had left the camp on Friday have arrived at the camp on Saturday. However, they did not perform their duties. Camp leader and ZP former member R K Chandru held talks with the protesters.
Thimma, mahout of senior elephant Balaram said “forest is source of our livelihood. We are not so cruel to set forest on fire. The forest department officials should give us justice,” he said.
Nagarahole ACF Shivashankar and RFO Devaraj held talks with the kaavadis and mahouts in the evening. The officials said “the police will act as per the law. We have to abide by the law.
If Vinu is innocent, he will walk free. During the interrigation he had stated that he ignited the fire to avenge his dismissal from the service.” Finally, the mahouts and kaavadis have withdrawn their stir in the evening.