Forest officials in India’s southern state of Kerala have captured a wild elephant that killed at least 11 people over five years as it raided homes and shops for rice and other grains.
Per Second News reports that India is home to the world’s largest population of Asian elephants, a species listed as endangered after a massive decline in numbers.
Arikomban, a 30-year-old male whose name means “rice tusker”, was caught after a month-long hunt involving 150 searchers and four kumki elephants — captive animals trained to help in the capture of wild elephants — in the hills of Kerala’s Idukki district.
Arikomban was cornered and subdued on Sunday in a nine-hour operation. The animal was hit with five tranquilliser darts.
Hundreds of villagers lined the road, clapping, hooting and taking pictures, as the bound and blindfolded elephant was taken away from the area in a lorry.
Arikomban was fitted with a GPS collar and released deep in the forests of Kerala’s Periyar Tiger Reserve, with an eight-member team including a vet tracking the animal’s movements.
“The elephant has a wound on its trunk from its previous fight with an elephant. It was treated with antibiotics and the wounds dressed before the release,” said Dr Arun Zacharia, the vet who oversaw Arikomban’s capture.
“We have fitted a radio caller and are monitoring its movement.
Elephants are adaptive animals. The bulls are solitary and it will be fine on its own in its new environment.”
Forestry officials had initially planned to capture Arikomban and train it to become a kumki. They set up a dummy grain shop to lure the elephant but the plan was scrapped after a legal challenge by wildlife activists who asked for the animal to be relocated to a forest.