By Subhash Chandra N.S.
The Forest department will start in two weeks one of the biggest operations since 1972 to capture 23 wild elephants which have been wreaking havoc in Alur and Kattepura in Hassan district.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has granted permission to capture 25 animals. Two of them have already been captured. The previous big effort to capture wild elephants in the country was the Khedda operation in the Kabini backwater in 1972.
The elephants will be captured in the isolated patch of Hemavathi backwater. The operation is also an attempt at mitigating man-elephant conflict in the region and has been recommended by High Court-appointed experts.
The jumbo animals have been frequently raiding human habitats, resulting in several human and elephant deaths. Elephant attacks in the last two years have claimed eight lives in this region. The High Court then directed the department to capture the animals after a task force constituted by it presented a report and recommended against translocation, saying elephants tend to go back their original habitat.
Letter from MOEF
Vinay Luthra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW), said the letter from MOEF dated January 16, 2014, arrived on Monday. “We will begin operations within two weeks and preparations have already begun,” he said. Seven of the 23 elephants to be captured are calves, he added.
In the letter — Deccan Herald has a copy — C Murti, Assistant IGP (Project Elephant), said the High Court gave the order to capture the elephants after a task force constituted by it recommended that the jumbo animals be removed from the region.
“The CWW of the State is a competent authority as per Section 11 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to take appropriate decision,” the order said. Murti cited a letter dated November 25, 2013, in which the State government sought permission to capture the elephants. He directed the government to involve the task force in the operation.
In another letter, addressed to the Principal Secretary of Forest, Ecology and Environment department, the MOEF reminded the government that it had accepted in the High Court the recommendations of the task force. The ministry also cautioned the government against the use of elephants in any commercial activities. “The attention of the State government be drawn to Section 43 of Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which prohibits (the) use of captive elephants for commercial activities,” the letter said.
Ten tranquilising guns
Unlike the traditional Khedda operation (where jumbo animals are driven into a stockade), elephants in this operation will be capture by way of tranquilisation. Ten Kumki (captive, trained) elephants and Forest staff of the region will be pressed into service. “We need at least ten tranquilising guns; we have seven now and the remaining will be procured,” Luthra added.
Ten crawls (pens to confine the elephants) have been constructed at Sakrebailu near Shimoga, Periyapatna near Mysore, Mathigodu and Dubare elephant camps in Kodagu district. The elephants will be sent to these places after identifying the families. The tuskers will be separated from the herd.
Luthra reassured that everything would be done “in accordance with the law”. Two committees have been formed for the purpose. One will be advisory in nature and comprise some members of task force, including the well-known pachydermist, Raman Sukumaran. Another committee will be formed at the field level and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Project Elephant, will head it, Luthra added. Veterinarians associated with the department will undergo a special training for the operation on January 24.