Saturday, 16 May 2020

Tranqulizing the rogue elephant is a difficult task. Vets need proper precautions before firing!!

Tranqulizing the elephant, Siliguri, W.Bengal. economictimes.indiatimes.com
Rogue elephant in Kerala. to-tranquilizethehindu.com
In the Indian states like Assam and Kerala, rogue elephants are a problem for the forest officials and vets. Part of the reason is shrinking elephant habitats, lack of water holes and food,  and mushrooming human settlements in the fringe areas close to the wooded regions. Unlike the northern states, in the southern state of Kerala, the elephants are commonly used  in the Hindu temple rituals. There is no temple festival in Kerala that does not include elephants. Besides, as part of puja protocols, caparisoned elephants are used daily to carry the god's idol (Utchavar) in a procession. This tradition has been around for centuries.

Rogue elephant Alamy.com 
On many an occasion such well trained animals, in a jiff, go berserk and run amok.  If the male elephant is undergoing musth, though precautions are taken by the vets and  temple officials, they turn  violent beyond control. This is also true of untrained wild elephants that get into the near-by villages or farms looking for food, fruits, vegetables, etc. In Assam, the wild elephants frequently visit the villages for a different reason. They target the places  where the women are engaged in preparing local brew (alcohol content is less than 8%).  Attracted by the smell,  they raid the shops and houses where the brew is stored  in big quantity and get drunk on it. For the forest officers and vets, dealing with such rogue elephants requires patience and proper  medical; they face a serious threats to their lives. The veterinarians of Elephant Squads of Kerala  are quite concerned about their safety  as well as the people's. Yet another hitch is the correct administration of the  sedative drug. The substance used is 100 times more  potent than normal and   the exotic and toxic sedative named 'carfentanil' has been linked in recent weeks to fatal overdoses in Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota in the US.   
The Kerala veterinarians  have  called for safe modes for controlling rogue animals, especially elephants. In foreign countries, quieter guns are used  to manage them. In the recent past  an experienced  veterinarian was killed by a rogue elephant  while tranquilizing it at Mallappally  and now, the vets want to be extra cautious in dealing with such unpredictable pachyderms.
Normally, in Kerala the annual  temple festival season coincides with the musth season of tuskers. This means both the experts and the devotees will face threats from tuskers whose mood swings during this particular period. This year the famous Thirussur Puram festival is a low key activity due to Covid-19 virus. As a matter of fact,  at many Hindu temples big festivals are  not held as a precaution. Only a decade ago in Kerala  an expert was killed while he was in the process of darting the elephant to subdue it.

The problem with dart guns is they make  noise while  firing. Such uncomfortable  sudden noise from dart guns puts the elephants on the war path and they react more vigorously.  Silent guns  are not in use in India for unknown reasons. The time has come to use them  with better management technique,  according to many vets. Abraham Tharakan, who had darted around 175 elephants over the years, is of the opinion that  to be on the safer side,  the gunmen should well plan the escape routes before pulling the trigger. If firing is done from behind a wall or a building, the charging tusker can be distracted or blocked, but in an open range it is quite dangerous. With some exceptions, most of the vets had close  encounters with elephants in musth. The vets and forest officials tame the rogue elephants with kumkis (trained female elephants) once they are captured.   Way back on May 10, 2017 - the Kerala forest officers caught the 'Terror elephant' Chullikomban  after tranquilizing it and it was a 15-hour long operation  to sedate him.  He terrorized the people and farmers in the Aralam  forest area and his unrelenting rampage in the villages, etc  resulted in four death.  In March 2019 the Forest Department  captured the rogue  'Vadakkanadu Komban'  who had been raiding and destroying farms and crops  for several months, and posing threats to the people there. He was captured with the help of trained elephants.  The area was close to Waynad Wildlife Sanctuary.  
https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/shocked-veterinarians-seek-safer-methods-to-tranquilize-elephants/article6783226.ece