CHENNAI: Wild elephant Chinna Thambi must be captured and tamed, says Asian elephant expert Ajay Desai. Otherwise, it may influence younger elephants in the wild to become crop raiders. In his 14-page report submitted to Madras High Court, Desai says an evaluation of the elephant’s movement, post-translocation, shows that it’s completely habituated to human beings.
“Chinna Thambi does not react to people even when they are just 15-20 feet away. Even when there are a large number of people around making noise, he ignores them completely. He walks into holding areas where kumkies and staff are based and drinks water from the tank inside the compound,” observes Desai in the report, a copy of which is available with Express.
“He is interacting with Kumki Kaleem. He is used to walking through villages as seen from several videos. These behaviours indicate that the elephant does not distinguish between human use areas and forests. Chinna Thambi will come out again if relocated to the forest,” observes the report.
The forest department has also filed counter affidavit in response to a PIL petition opposing the alleged move of the department to transform Chinna Thambi into a kumki elephant.
The affidavit endorses the view of Ajay Desai. The matter will come up before the bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramanium Prasad on Tuesday.
Chinna Thambi was captured and translocated on January 25 to Anamalai Tiger Reserve but he walked out of the forest by January 31, entered human settlements and has been moving along agricultural areas and human habitations since then. As per the details obtained from the radio collar attached to the elephant, he covered a distance of 61 km outside the forest and is currently moving towards Dindugal district.
“Chinna Thambi is known to have several younger males following it for crop raiding and when it enters into villages and human habitation. There are several videos of it entering human settlements with other younger males. If Chinna Thambi is not managed, it will teach the same behaviour to other younger males and the conflict will multiply with time.”
Can Chinna Thambi become a kumki? “We cannot predict that yet,” says Desai. “There is no point discussing it at this stage. However, if Chinna Thambi is kumki material, it will help a great deal in reducing human-elephant conflict in the region.”
Options are limited
Drive to nearest forest: This may seem an obvious choice but there will be danger to people along the way as this elephant does not move in the direction of the forest. If the elephant suddenly changes direction then it can move through areas when people are unaware of its movement
Translocate to another habitat: The past experience of translocating this elephant to a good habitat shows that it is not really food that is the problem, but the habit of feeding on crops that drives this elephant. If translocated, sooner or later it will start raiding crops
Negative conditioning: Given its lack of fear for people and its ability to move away from kumkies quickly it will not succeed
Capture, bring into captivity: This seems to be the only option open to the department. Since it is completely habituated to people, it can be tamed easily