Rishikesh (Uttarakhand): Life almost slipped away from this 35-year-old tusker when marching orders were issued to shoot him dead. But destiny had willed otherwise.
This bull tusker trampled five people to death between August and November last year in the Narendranagar area of Uttarakhand, about 30 km from here. Matters came to a boil after he struck his fifth victim.
"About 20 people have been killed by elephants since 2008 in the region, of whom five were killed by this tusker last year," Divisional Forest Officer of Narendranagar Forest Division NN Pandey said. They were killed on roads outside the reserve, he added.
Orders were then issued Nov 7 by the forest department to shoot him dead.
Though the process of elimination had started, a rescue effort was also on simultaneously to capture and translocate the animal to a nearby reserve. Pandey said Section 11 of the Wildlife Protection Act that sanctions death also provides for capture and relocation.
Experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), forest department and the NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) spearheaded the operation.
The giant four-tonne tusker was finally trapped last Saturday after a team of mahouts, officials and conservationists spent two months on his trail.
It was sedated and loaded on a truck to move it 20 km across the river Ganga to the Chilla forest range of the sprawling Rajaji National Park, home to about 500-plus elephants.
The past two attempts to sedate the animal had failed because of difficult terrain and conditions, the WTI said.
Prior to the tusker`s capture, the forest department had carried out regular patrolling and awareness drives to control the situation. A team was also put into place to attempt live capture.
"Resources from across the country were mobilised. Three captive elephants and six mahouts were brought in from the Corbett Tiger Reserve. An elephant specialist from Assam was flown in with the support of the David Shephard Wildlife Fund," Pandey said.
The Chilla range, a rich elephant habitat, is separated from the capture site by the Chilla power channel and also the river Ganga, minimising chances of the animal returning there.
"Our task, however, does not end here and the animal shall now be monitored closely by the team," Pandey said.
WTI`s Anil Kumar Singh, who has been working on human-elephant conflict mitigation for the past 18 years, said there is a need to educate and sensitise people to respect wild life and give it space.
Building of physical barriers like electric fences and trenches will reduce incidents of elephants entering human habitation, he added.