By J. Shanmugha Sundaram
VELLORE: A year has passed since the Forest Department officials carried out the country’s major operation of tranquilising and translocating a herd of seven elephants from the Jawadhu Hills in the Western Ghats. However, the Rs 73-lakh operation ‘Malai’ remained incomplete as a 45-year-old tusker of the herd has been left alone and is still wandering in loneliness for the last one year.
The tusker was part of a 13-member herd that migrated to Jawadhu Hills in 1988 from Rayakotta in AP. The herd was trapped after the elephant corridor connecting the Jawadhu Hills and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh was destroyed due to encroachments and road work along the stretch.
Three years ago, the herd was reduced to seven members. The tusker, except during the mating period, remained in the RF areas in Tirupattur forest division, while the rest of the herd migrated to forest areas along Villupuram and Tiruvannamalai districts in 2012. “They strayed into human habitation. It resulted in huge crop loss and subsequently, human-animal conflict,” said an official in the Forest Department. It was due to this frequent straying into human habitations that made officials come up with operation ‘Malai’ to translocate the herd to Mudumalai and Topslip. But, this tusker strayed away from the herd during the operation conducted in the Thanipadi Reserve Forest area, Melchengam in Tiruvannamalai. In the operation, a matriarch, four sub-adults and a young tusker, nicknamed as Othakombam were translocated. This deserted the tusker, presently wandering in Ambur, Kavalur and Alangayam forest ranges. The operation was abruptly stopped after the six elephants were captured.
Forest Department officials said the tusker has got used to living here due to availability of good water source and fresh fodder. “The tribal villagers said the elephant often stopped vehicles transporting vegetables and fruits on Alangayam-Jawadhu road and Jamanamaruthur-Polur road.”
However, experts said, it was not good for the psyche of the animal to be left away from its herd. “Mating cycle comes once in six months. During this period, the animal could turn violent. This is not good for people as well as the animal,” he said.