COIMBATORE: Elephant Rivaldo seems to have silenced all who doubted his ability to survive in the wild. His interactions with other wild elephants are normal, and he has made great progress in using natural habitats away from the villages near Masinagudi in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) of Nilgiris district, staff monitoring the elephant have said.
Officials of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department had lured the 35-year-old tusker into a ‘kraal’ using fruits, to prevent him from interacting with humans as the animal started eating fruits fed by villagers rather than grazing on his own.
After spending nearly three months in the kraal at Vazhaithottam, the elephant was fitted with a radio collar and released into the wild near the Chikkala anti-poaching camp in MTR on August 9. Since then, the tusker has been monitored through signals from the radio collar.
To prevent any untoward incidents to Rivaldo — considering a 40-year-old wild elephant nicknamed SI was severely injured, after people threw a burning cloth on his ear, and later died in the MTR on January 19 — officials have been monitoring him constantly.
“Earlier, many doubts arose over Rivaldo’s future when he was released back into the wild. Questions were also raised about whether he could survive without being fed by humans. We have been closely monitoring the animal; his feeding and resting habits, and interactions with other wild elephants are completely normal,” said MTR field director D Venkatesh.
Moreover, the animal has increased his habitat usage by moving away from the villages. “Rivaldo has made extensive use of the Mavanhalla River and moved north of the Sigur River in September and October. For the first time, he went to the foothills of the Kalhatti slopes, north of the Sigur River. He is currently grazing at Maavanalla and Vaalaithottam forest,” the field director added, and pointed out that Rivaldo’s home range is increasing every month.
“His home range area in his natural habitat in August was 7.11 sq km. It has become 10.12 sq km in September and October, and will further increase as the northeast monsoon begins,” he said.