COIMBATORE: Tusker Rivaldo stepped out in the wild at Chikkala inside Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) on Monday, after spending nearly three months in a kraal at Vazhaithottam. Having got his freedom back, Rivaldo celebrated the moment with a mud bath.
Principal Secretary (Environment and Forests) Supriya Sahu, who headed the release operation, said Rivaldo has been fitted with a radio collar and that this is the first time an elephant kept in a kraal has been rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Rivaldo dodged several attempts made by the forest department to capture him. Unlike the usual practice of using tranquliser darts, Rivaldo was lured into the kraal on May 5 with his favourite fruits placed in his route since the animal frequented human habitation near Vazhaithottam. Forest department officials feared that Rivaldo might face threats from the locals like a wild elephant (nicknamed) ‘SI’ did. Two people threw inflammable material at SI’s ear, following which it died.
The challenging operation began at 3 am on Monday, when the forest department staff loaded Rivaldo on to a specially designed truck from the kraal for the 34-km ride to Chikkala. A team of five veterinarians, two kumki elephants along 100 anti-poaching watchers was involved in the operation. Supriya Sahu and chief wildlife warden Shekar Neeraj appreciated the team for the flawless operation.
Monitoring the jumbo
Addressing media persons in Masinagudi, Supriya Sahu said a control room has been established in Theppakadu and a team would be tracking the elephant round the clock and ensure he does not venture back near human habitation. MTR officials did not reveal information till Rivaldo was released. MTR field director KK Kaushal said there was an element of risk and that was why they we were tight-lipped.
Factors deciding release
Rivaldo was released based on report by an expert committee that checked on his health. Availability of green fodder, water and the absence of human habitation were factors taken into consideration before deciding on his release