Rescued and rehabilitated amid much hoopla over the last two years, the four jumbos who now call the Dalma foothills their home have become proverbial white elephants for the Ranchi wildlife division.
The fate of three animals yet to be decided by a court and the fourth rejected as a cub by its herd, Champa, Basanti, Pagli and Rajni have nowhere to go and remain anchored in Makulakocha village, about 20km from Jamshedpur, being fed and looked after by hapless forest officials.
“We don’t know when a Jamtara court will dispose of the case involving Champa, Basanti and Pagli,” said Dalma range officer Mangal Kacchap referring to the three elephants rescued in 2010 from unlicensed mahouts in Jamtara.
While the animals were put in the care of Dalma wildlife sanctuary mahout Siraj Ansari, the forest department took the absconding unlicensed mahouts to court.
“Unless our counterparts in Jamtara pursue the matter properly, nothing will proceed. It seems they have forgotten about this case,” a worried Dalma forester said.
His concern is not misplaced. As long as the elephants remain in its care, Ranchi wildlife division has to spend thousands daily just to feed the four.
The elephants require a quintal of food everyday, made up of khichdi and fresh vegetables.
“Khichdi is served in the evenings, while they chew on fodder in the mornings. The elephants are also given gourd and cucumber, which grow in abundance in Makulakocha during the day. Despite the fact that we grow our own vegetables, costs are high,” Kacchap said.
Since the wildlife division has a limited budget, hosting the four elephants is proving to be a costly affair. “We spend over Rs 2,500 daily on the elephants,” the range officer said, adding that the khichdi is cooked in huge pots in an open kitchen, prepared by villagers hired for the purpose.
According to the forest officers, once the court decides the fate of the elephants, the animals can be used to take tourists into the sanctuary, which in turn will generate revenue.
Other than the three animals rescued from Jamtara, there is four-year-old Rajni, who was rescued from Ichagarh in Seraikela-Kharsawan in 2010 and transported to Makulakocha last year.
And while the Dalma forest officials wait for the legal process to end, the elephants continue to lead an uncomplicated existence, roaming the sanctuary under the watchful eyes of the mahout.
Attempts to introduce the jumbos in the core sanctuary have failed in the past with wild herds refusing to accept them.
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