Bangalore, June 8: Two elephants that had strayed out of a forest 35km away ran amok for hours in Mysore this morning, goring to death a 55-year-old bank security guard whose family later donated his eyes.
The elephants, aged six and eight, tossed around everything in their path from cycles and motorcycles to traffic signals and road railings after they arrived in the city around 6am.
Renuka Prasad, 55, stepped out of his house in the Bamboo Bazar area of the old city hearing the commotion around 7am and was attacked by one of the elephants. He died on the way to hospital. Some officials said Prasad was at work, standing outside the ATM where he was a guard, when he was gored to death.
The elephant then set upon a cow tethered by the roadside and killed it.
Degradation and fragmentation of elephant corridors bring in such horrific results, said Ajai Desai, an expert on elephants and a member of the steering committee of Project Elephant commissioned by the government of India.
There is something really wrong when a wild elephant strays into human habitats, since they seldom venture out if there is enough food in their own habitat, Desai said over phone from Mysore, 140km from Bangalore.
Forest officials, who had been firing tranquilliser darts from 7.15am, finally succeeded in hitting the killer elephant around 9am. Three tamed elephants from Mysore Zoo were then brought in to leash the wild elephant. Sources said the officials did not come with adequate tranquillisers and had to go back for supplies.
The second elephant went missing and was traced to a farm two hours later, when it too was tranquillised.
With residents milling on the narrow streets of the city with a population of eight lakh, 400 policemen and forest officials were deployed to keep more people from being attacked. Schools remained closed as the operation to catch the elephants was on.
They are like kids who wander if they need something. And this is a definite outcome of our wrong policies to protect habitats and fast-depleting forest cover across the country, Desai said. The wild elephants are suspected to have got separated from a group of four that strayed out of T. Narsipur forests and was sighted in Bannur, 22km from Mysore, last evening.
While Japan has a forest cover of 65 per cent, India is struggling with hardly 20 per cent, he said. Even the US and countries in western Europe have maintained around 30 per cent cover.
At 25,000 — although the figure is disputed — India is home to 60 per cent of the worlds Wild Asian Elephant population. Activists have long been fighting alongside the Task Force on Project Elephant to form a National Elephant Conservation Authority on the lines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which has achieved impressive results.
A proper mechanism to safeguard elephant habitats is the only way to prevent such unfortunate incidents where innocent human lives are lost, said Praveen Bhargav, managing trustee of Wildlife First, a Bangalore-based conservation NGO.
An ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh was announced for the dead security guards family. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Prasad had often spoken of pledging his eyes — a wish his family honoured today.