Every operation involves life risks for both elephants and staffers: PCCF
Lawrence Milton, Times of India
December 6, 2023
The death of Arjuna during an elephant-rescue operation has devastated the
forest staffers, forcing them to pause the operation for a brief period.
“Every operation poses a fresh challenge and carrying out elephant
operations involves life risks for both elephants and staffers. We are
dejected by the incident. Arjuna not just lost his life, but saved the
lives of other staffers involved in the operation,” explained Subhash
Malkhede, PCCF (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden, Karnataka.
Forest officials had launched an operation to rescue elephants and also to
radio-collar troublesome ones early this month.
“The elephant that gored Arjuna to death has returned to the forest. We
will take a call to resume operation later as mahouts and kavadis are
disheartened by Arjuna’s death,” he said, adding, Karnataka has witnessed
32 human deaths by elephants in the last eight months — between April and
December (till date).
Human-elephant conflicts are high in Mysuru, Kodagu, and Hassan districts,
and, of late in Chikkamagaluru region too, the officer stated.
In the first-ever biggest elephant relocation operation, carried out with
permission from the Union government, the forest department rescued 22
elephants from the region in 2014. Some were relocated to forest, while
others were held in captivity. “Then, Arjuna was part of the rescue
operation that stretched over four months,” said vet Dr DN Nagaraj,
assistant director of Karnataka Sheep and Wool Development Corporation,
Dr Nagaraj was in charge of elephants during the operation then. Dr
Nagaraj, who has the experience of rescuing 85 elephants between 2002 and
2020, said elephant operations are risky. “We can’t predict the behaviour
of wild elephants in such situations, and can’t blame anyone for any
incident happening in the line of duty,” he asserted.