BHUBANESWAR: Five members of a jumbo radio collaring team were injured on Monday when their target tusker charged at them after a failed tranquilisation attempt. The operation had to be halted after the mishap. Those injured include Khurda DFO Poornima P; two experts from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru; assistant conservator of Forests, Khurda and forester of Bhusandpur section in Khurda forest division (FD) where the tranquilisation was being attempted. One of the injured - the forester - is under treatment while the rest have been discharged after medical attention.
The incident took place in the morning when the forest team successfully darted the elephant. However, the half-sedated jumbo was enraged and charged at the team members who were monitoring its movement. The elephant is reported to have proceeded into the forest. “The injured were immediately shifted to AIIMS, Bhubaneswar. All of them are out of danger now,” said Regional Chief Conservator of Forest (RCCF) Bhubaneswar, Manoj Mohapatra.
The Forest department had decided to tranquilise the tusker after they were unsuccessful in tranquilising another jumbo, Ramu, a 30-year-old male elephant in the Khurda forest on Sunday. The forest teams had also failed to radio collar Ramu during their first attempt in Bharatpur reserve forest of Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary in September.
This tusker was chosen for radio collaring as it was known to cause crop damage on a daily basis. Its interaction with the human habitations had led to death and injuries too which had prompted the Forest department to radio collar it for tracking its movement and behaviour.
The project for radio collaring of elephants is being implemented by the Forest department for the first time in the State. The department has roped in Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) and IISc, Bengaluru for this purpose.
Forest officials said the project is aimed to facilitate tracking movement of elephants in conflict in an effective way and help improve wildlife management practices in the State. They, however, admitted that radio collaring of wild elephants could be tricky if the jumbos are in growing stages or showing aggressive behaviour. “Sedation is extremely difficult when an elephant turns aggressive during tranquilisation,” said a senior forest official.
The tranquilisation will remain suspended for the time being and will be assessed at a later stage, said a press release from Khurda forest division.