TN forest dept fast-tracks jumbo Rivaldo's rehabilitation, to directly
release it into wild
SV Krishna Chaitanya, The New Indian Express
July 21, 2021
The Tamil Nadu forest department has decided to fast-track the
rehabilitation of the elephant Rivaldo, which is currently languishing
inside a kraal. Rather than attempting a soft release as originally
planned, an alternative habitat has been identified deep inside Mudumalai
Tiger Reserve (MTR) to directly release Rivaldo into the wild within the
next 7-10 days.
The new habitat will be at least 50 km away from Vazhaithotam village and
is said to be rich in fodder and water sources and free of human
For the past two days, forest officials along with scientists from the
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, Indian Institute of Science (IISc),
Bangalore, and local conservationists have been searching for an ideal
location trekking several kilometres deep inside MTR even as rains pounded
Nilgiris district. Finally, they zeroed in on a habitat that met all the
parameters needed for Rivaldo to start a new journey in the wild away from
Chief Wildlife Warden Sekhar Kumar Niraj told The New Indian Express, "It's
a very complex task. Rivaldo, unlike other wild tuskers, is very social.
So, given a chance he will again stray into human settlements in search of
easy food. The earlier location chosen for soft release near Abhayaranyam
is again close to a few villages and the type of fodder available was not
preferable for Rivaldo due to his trunk disability.
"So, we had to search for a new site. In the process, we found a habitat,
which had the right kind of vegetation like tall grass, water bodies, tree
types, signal network and accessibility. I had studied the past eight
months of data, which established movement of elephant herds in the area.
Local forest staff said Rivaldo also used to move around in the area, which
meant the new location is part of his home range. All these factors
encouraged us to directly attempt hard release and rehabilitate Rivaldo at
the new site in the complete wild," Niraj explained.
Anti-Poaching Staff, Kumki Elephants & Radio-Collar to Guard Rivaldo
Forest officials told The New Indian Express that anti-poaching staff,
anti-depredation squads and kumki elephants will all be guarding Rivaldo,
who will be fitted with a GPS-enabled radio collar.
Recently, the forest department introduced digital wireless communication
sets, which have GPS that can be monitored from a control room. This latest
technology will enable the field staff to monitor the movement of Rivaldo
and get advance notice of where he is heading. "It is expected he would try
to go back to his original home range -- the Sigur river and the villages
around -- but its movement will be blocked with kumkis or anti-depredation
squads positioned along the path to drive it back into the forest area," a
senior official said.
Mohanraj from WWF India told The New Indian Express that what the Tamil
Nadu forest department is trying to achieve in the case of Rivaldo will be
pathbreaking and go a long way in elephant conservation. "This is a new
experiment and I am confident that Rivaldo will quickly adapt to the new
location, which has an abundance of tall grass and short trees for him to
feed on. Success of this operation would encourage rehabilitation of other
captive elephants, which are in excess, in the forest department camps."
Mudumalai forest officials said preparations are underway for his
transport. Special vehicles have arrived from Satyamangalam Tiger Reserve
and Hosur on Wednesday. For a few days, grills would be conducted to get
the elephant acclimatised.
"We will radio collar the elephant in a day or two. A special control room
would be set up with a dedicated team to monitor and control the movement
of Rivaldo when he is set free," officials said.