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Radio-collaring of wild elephant put off

Staff Reporter

MALAPPURAM: The maiden attempt of the State Forest Department to radio-collar a problematic tusk-less male elephant in the Nilambur forests failed after the elephant joined a wild herd on Saturday.

Forest officers said they would resume the attempt after 10 days. A big team of wildlife experts and forest officers had reached the Nilambur forests to radio-collar the tusk-less male elephant (‘makhna') as it was posing a threat for human life in and around the forests.

The makhna, which was under observation for the past six months, had killed a man from Vazhikkadavu on January 13. It had attacked several others in recent months. “We decided to go for radio collar for the first time in Kerala after we found that this makhna, quite unlike other wild elephants, was making ‘actual charging' at people. Elephants usually make mock charging in the wild to scare people away,” said M. Sreedharan Nair, Divisional Forest Officer (North), Nilambur.

Mr. Nair said the Forest Department decided to radio-collar the makhna after it was found to be targeting only human beings. “It spared vehicles and crops, and attacked only human beings in areas like Punchakolli, Anamari and Padukka under Vazhikkadavu and Karulai forest ranges.” The radio-collaring team was divided into eight groups, including one for tracking and another for darting.

The makhna was tracked and detected about three km inside the forest a few days ago, and a trained elephantwas brought from the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary to help the darting team.

However, the darting team could not tranquilise the makhna as doing so was found to be ‘highly risky'. “The elephant can get killed when it falls in its front legs 15 minutes after darting, especially when other wild elephants are nearby,” said Mr. Nair.

The team stopped its efforts temporarily after the makhna joined a herd of wild elephants. “We did not take the risk because the makhna was in “musth” (periodic condition in bull elephants characterised by highly aggressive behaviour, accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones) also.,” Mr. Nair said.

Near escape

Some of the team members had a miraculous escape from the pachyderm as it charged six times in the last few days.

“Now we will wait for another 10 days before resuming the task. We will not go back,” said the DFO.

The radio collar brought for the makhna was already calibrated. “It is an expensive equipment, and will have a life of minimum two years,” he said.

The radio-collaring attempt was a fruitful experience, the wildlife team said.

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