GUWAHATI: A killer elephant, captured by an Assam BJP MLA-led team of forest officials, died in captivity in the wee hours of Sunday, five days since it was shifted to the Rowmari camp of the Orang National Park in the state.
If the animal died due to drug overdose during tranquilization or for other reasons is yet to be ascertained. Two vets from Guwahati rushed to the Orang National Park to conduct post-mortem, the report of which was awaited.
Recently, the jumbo had gone on the rampage, killing five people in a single day in western Assam’s Goalpara district bordering Meghalaya. The forest officials had plans to let it loose in the wild but later, they decided to shift it to the Orang National Park in northern Assam.
The MLA, Padma Hazarika who represents the Sootea constituency, had chipped in to capture the elephant as efforts made by forest officials yielded no results. The family of the MLA has owned and lived with elephants for generations.
After the successful operation, at least two politicians had raised the demand to appoint Hazarika as the state’s forest minister by replacing the incumbent, Parimal Suklabaidya.
As the elephant had continued to unleash a reign of terror, the forest department constituted a committee with the MLA as its chief advisor. The operation to capture it on November 11 was led by him and his cousin at the Rongjuli forest division. They were assisted by a team of forest officials, including vets.
During the operation, as the elephant came charging at the team, Hazarika’s cousin had shot the first dart. This was followed by the shooting of another dart, this time by the MLA. Eventually, the elephant was captured and kudos poured in for the duo. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was among leaders to praise Hazarika. The MLA had named the elephant “Krishna”.
However, some people criticised the forest department for involving Hazarika and his cousin in the operation. The forest minister had defended the decision. He said the department used the MLA’s “experience”.
“He might have tranquilized the animal but there were forest department officials including vets with him. So, it’s not that he was leading the operation alone,” the minister had then said.
Elephant expert Kaushik Barua expressed shock over the animal’s death.
“You can't blame the department. Had the elephant been released into the wild, which was the original intent, this might not have happened. Nobody wanted the elephant to be released in their own area. In such a situation, what can the department do? They can’t let the elephant lose in any area,” he said.