COIMBATORE: In the wake of severe criticism from NGOs and journalists, Coimbatore forest division district officer D Venkatesh ruled out the possibility of tranquilising the injured Makhna elephant for treatment. Venkatesh said that the animal was unlikely to survive for long due to the nature of its injuries.
The forest department has been monitoring the injured animal from mid-August. On Saturday, the elephant entered the open-air kitchen of the Special Task Force (STF) camp at Mangarai near Anaikatti on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. A video of forest staff trying to drive the elephant away by bursting crackers and honking vehicle horns went viral and caused outrage. In the video, a rocket cracker is seen soaring over the elephant and bursting in front of it as department staff try to chase the animal from the camp. Activists had asked why the animal could not be tranquilised and treated instead.
The DFO said that the forest staff had burst crackers to prevent the animal from entering the residential quarters of STF. "Later, the animal moved to Jambukandi Pirivu and damaged a house. The elephant is now at Thuvaipathi village," he said.
According to Venkatesh, veterinarians who had been monitoring the jumbo have said that it would not survive for long as its tongue was severed.
"They have said that treating the animal will be a futile exercise. Nonetheless, for the last few weeks, we have been monitoring the animal and leaving food laced with medicines wherever it goes,” he said.
The elephant had briefly travelled into Kerala forests before returning on August 27. “After its return, it has started consuming fruits and nutritional flour left for it by the forest staff. However, its behaviour has now changed and it has started searching for rice,” Venkatesh said.
The elephant is said to have damaged seven houses so far in Varapalayam, Nanjundapuram, Jambukandi areas and has started walking towards Kerala. Elaborating on the jumbo’s health, Coimbatore forest veterinary officer A Sugumar said that more than 80 per cent of the elephant's tongue had been severed and its right molar was badly damaged.
Makhna #elephant which was under treatment for injury on its mouth, entered into the STF camp in #Anaikatti on Saturday.— S Mannar Mannan (@mannar_mannan) September 5, 2020
Though the forest department tried to chase away the elephant by bursting crackers, the elephant refused to move away.@xpresstn @NewIndianXpress pic.twitter.com/A4xGoYz67c
An adult male elephant needs about 200kg of green fodder and 150 litres of water every day. For the animal to eat, its tongue, molars and cheek muscles have to work together to hold, chew and swallow the food. The tongue has to rise and press against the upper palate to initiate the swallowing process. In the case of the injured elephant, all three parts have been seriously damaged. Its tongue is paralysed, resulting in a drastic drop in food intake. The condition is irreversible.
Sugumar was of the view that the animal might have sustained the injuries after accidentally biting an avuttukai (country bomb). Earlier, forest officials had posited that the elephant might have been injured by the tusk of another elephant during a fight.
“There were litres of pus and maggot-formation in the mouth. The animal is surviving only because it is able to drink water and consume rice and flour. Even if we tranquilise and capture the animal, it won’t be able to chew food because of the nature of its injury,” he said, adding that they had not found its dung anywhere. Nevertheless, the jumbo is being provided with soft, juicy and nutritive food along with oral medication and is being monitored around-the-clock.
Sugumar said that the elephant had earlier been roaming in the Sholyur forests in Kerala where it had been nicknamed ‘Bulldozer’ as it had damaged 17 houses in three months.