Tusker Rivaldo to stay in the wild, HC gives 3 weeks for foresters to continue with rewilding process
The govt explained in detail various measures being taken to protect Rivaldo and why it was imperative to keep older males like him in the wild for the overall population growth of the species.
CHENNAI: The iconic Nilgiris tusker Rivaldo will continue his stay in the wild as Madras High Court has considered the rehabilitation plan submitted by the State forest department and given three weeks to continue with the rewilding process.
When the PIL filed by animal rights activist S Muralidharan came for hearing on Friday, the State government counsel P Muthukumar filed a detailed status report where Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj explained in detail various measures being taken to protect Rivaldo and why it was imperative to keep older males like him in the wild for overall population growth of the species.
Recording the government's response, the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu decided to wait for three weeks and find out whether the animal gets accustomed to the wild now and gets enough food over there to survive.
In the status report, Shekar Kumar Niraj said the Rivaldo started moving more than 40 to 50 km, its foraging was observed and the elephant was found in the company of several other tuskers and other wild elephants, and the body language was judged to be very normal and reflecting completely wild.
"Every effort has been taken to protect the rehabilitated Rivaldo in the wild, the human communities, and their properties by preventing the elephant from coming into the village and households. Nearly 10 days after the release, the Rivaldo is appearing healthier, happier, and natural in its wild habitat," he said.
Further, Niraj said keeping fully adult elephants in the small kraal and attempts to train a fully matured, healthy, and hefty adult elephant could be at times defeating the science of elephant ecology. "The permanent disabilities of Rivaldo, such as opacity in its right eye, and amputated trunk at the tip might have occurred long back and are not treatable. The elephant has learnt to live with these disabilities as many other elephants do with similar or other physical disabilities. Despite the disabilities, the elephant appears in healthy condition. There is not even a solitary instance of it attacking humans or indulging in crop-raiding," the top official said.
It is very important that the genetic diversity of the older males is preserved in the population by protecting them and allowing them to breed freely. As such it is very important that Rivaldo which is in the 35-40 age class be retained in the breeding population and not be removed from it and brought into captivity.
"The reason for allowing the capture of this tusker was because the public was feeding the animal. This is not the fault of the animal and is something which people have initiated. The department can easily employ teams of field staff to monitor and ensure that no interactions occur between the elephant and the people," the report reads.
The forest department also questioned the wisdom of petitioner S Muralidharan in filing such 'frivolous' petitions. "The petitioner seems to have no knowledge of elephant ecology or science of elephant management and seems to have been just motivated for the unknown reason to file such frivolous affidavits which has neither a scientific basis nor a legal basis and only intends to waste the precious time of the court, government officials, field managers as everyone have to deal such frivolous, misquoted, ill-judged and emotionally over toned affidavits," the courter affidavit of forest department says.