A forest team on the trail of a rogue elephant codenamed Palakkad Tusker-7 (PT-7) resumed its drive to capture the wild elephant on Sunday morning. The team, led by Chief Forest Veterinary Officer Arun Zachariah, located PT-7 about 4 km inside the forest at Korma between Dhoni and Mundur and shot it with a tranquilizer dart around 7.15 a.m.
The tusker was brought under anesthesia by 8 a.m., and efforts began to guide it into a lorry. The lorry was brought to the area where PT-7 was tranquilized, by clearing the path with the help of an earthmover.
Minister for Forests A.K. Sasindran congratulated the forest officials on tracing and traquilizing PT-7, which had become a terror for Dhoni, Akathethara, Malampuzha and Puthuppariyaram panchayats.
Mr. Sasindran said that the first phase of the operation was successful with the tranquilizer darting. “The next two phases too are crucial, though. The tusker has to be guided into the lorry and brought to Dhoni, where a kraal has been set. Then it has to be placed in the kraal with the help of three kumki elephants,” the Minister said.
The news about the tranquilizer shot brought cheers to the people of Dhoni and neighbouring areas as they have been living in fear because of frequent raids by PT-7 in the last two years.
The Forest Department took the decision to capture and tame PT-7 following pressure from the people. According to forest officials, the tusker had remained outside the forest more than 180 days of the last one year and destroyed farmlands at several areas. Acting like a leader, PT-7, presumably 20 years old, used to attract other elephants also in its frequent raids.
PT-7 was suspected to have been the elephant that trampled a 60-year-old man to death while he was on a morning walk along with his friends at Dhoni in July last year. “PT-7 was responsible for more than 90 per cent of the elephant conflicts in the region,” said Dr. Zachariah.
Although the drive to capture PT-7 began on Saturday morning, the elephant eluded the forest team by retreating deep into the forest. On realizing the presence of three kumki elephants, PT-7 moved into a steep area of Dhoni forest, making it difficult for Dr. Zachariah and team to dart it. The team suspended its operation around 3 p.m. on Saturday, and resumed it early on Sunday morning.
Although the Forest Department had planned to capture PT-7 and translocate it to Wayanad, the idea was abandoned considering the risk involved in transporting the tusker under sedation. The kraal set up at Muthanga was used for the confinement of a rogue makhana captured in Wayanad a few weeks ago.
A new kraal measuring 18 ft in height and 15 ft in width and length was erected at Dhoni a few days ago to put PT-7 in. More than seven dozen eucalyptus trees were cut down to build the kraal. With a six foot deep foundation, the kraal is designed not only to withstand the wrath of the wild tusker, but also to protect the animal from getting injured.
The Forest Department chose eucalyptus for the kraal largely because of its availability and its compressive strength. Heavy logs of kambakam (Hopea parviflora) were traditionally used for kraal making in the country. The shortage of kambakam, popularly known as the Iron Wood of Malabar, has prompted the Forest Department to find an alternative in eucalyptus.
Like kambakam, eucalyptus too does not splinter on heavy impact. Because of its compressive character, eucalyptus prevents the wild elephant from getting injured when it hits the kraal. If it is teak or any other hardwood, the tusker will get injured.