Notorious Elephant That Terrorized Villages, Trampled Man to Death Captured
Robyn White, Newsweek
January 23, 2023
A notorious elephant that terrorized villages and allegedly trampled a man
to death in India has been captured by authorities.
The elephant, officially known as PT-7, had been wreaking havoc in villages
across the Palakkad and Idukki districts of Kerala for two years, local
The tusker had been responsible for 176 crop-raiding incidents and had
damaged property 13 times, a 2022 Kerala Forest Department report said.
But local people claimed there had been at least over 500 incidents
involving the creature.
Villagers claim the elephant had also killed a 60-year-old who was taking a
morning stroll in July 2022. The Forest Department however, was unable to
identify whether it had been responsible.
Local farmers were distressed at the amount of times the elephant destroyed
crops. One told the Hindustan Times: "Usually animals invade crops for food
but PT-7 enjoyed simply destroying farms. We suffered badly after it
destroyed crops worth several lakhs of rupees."
Human/elephant conflict has been on the rise in India for years. The
increase is largely due to habitat loss. As human development projects
expand, elephant habitats are becoming smaller, which forces humans and
wildlife together. Fragmented habitats can also cause "crop raiding"
instances, when elephants stray onto farmlands in search of food and water,
ruining growing crops.
Duncan McNair, CEO of Save The Asian Elephants (STAE), told Newsweek that
this elephant would have been behaving naturally amid its vanishing
"This incident is one of far too many where India's ever-dwindling
population of already highly endangered Asian elephants is effectively
brutally punished for reacting naturally to extreme and often violent
incursions into its natural but diminishing territory," McNair said.
"These invasions of its space by destruction of forests for reckless human
expansion of roads, industrial developments and non-sustainable crops
create a tension that so often is met by extreme reprisals on elephants, he
said. "The kraal or 'crushing cage' is used to terrify, stab and beat young
and adult elephants alike to break them, usually then for extreme
commercial exploitation in tourism and festivals for the rest of their
STAE campaigns for the ethical treatment of Asian elephants. The charity,
which is based in the U.K., is calling for governments to ban advertising
for venues that exploit the animals.
The decision was taken to capture PT-7 after several recent violent
incidents. In November 2022, it charged at a man in Dhoni, Palakkad, who
broke his arm while running from the animal.
In recent months, the elephant had also been attacking cars and chasing
humans. Wildlife officials said this was likely due to the elephant
experiencing musth—a period where male elephants act more aggressively
during mating season due to larger amounts of testosterone in their body.
It took forest department teams six hours to track the elephant down on
January 22. After starting the operation at 4 a.m, the team spotted the
animal traveling with two other elephants in an area between Mundur and
By 7.10 a.m. teams were able to dart the elephant with a tranquilizer.
After 45 minutes, it fell unconscious.
The plan is for the elephant to be trained as a Kumki elephant. Kumki
elephants are captive elephants that are specifically trained to catch wild
elephants. Occasionally these elephants are also used to rescue wild
elephants that are injured.
Officials will have to wait for the elephant to pass being in musth before
he is trained.
India is home to almost 60 percent of Earth's remaining Asian elephant
population. There are fewer than 22,000 left in the wild, with
approximately 2,700 in captivity.
Newsweek has contacted the Kerala Forest Department for more information.