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No longer safe in habitat

- Joint bid to apprehend jumbo killers
Forest officials try to pull out the injured elephant with the help of a kunki (domesticated elephant) in Goalpara on Friday. Pictures by UB Photos

Tezpur/Dhubri, Dec. 7: Assam and Arunachal Pradesh today launched a joint operation to arrest the culprits in the brutal killing of a tusker in Lakhimpur district on the North Bank yesterday.

In Goalpara, the state forest department is making all efforts to save the elephant which was found injured yesterday, including requisitioning two kunkis from Manas National Park to help it stand on its feet.

The joint hunt for culprits is being led by assistant conservator of forests Krishna Patgiri with the help of the Dulong circle officer of Arunachal Pradesh. The culprits had brutally killed the animal, taking away its tail and meat, and had hung its tusks on a tree.

The decomposed body was disposed of at the spot, 40km from the district headquarters, after the mandatory post-mortem.

Magistrates Tudum Ate of Dulong circle under Ziro district in Arunachal Pradesh and Dhrubajyoti Hazarika of Kadam circle in Lakhimpur searched the houses along the forest with police but were unable to get any lead.

Patgiri told The Telegraph over phone from the spot, “The elephant was said to have pain in its legs for over 20 days. But we were not successful in locating it as it was shifting from one place to another. When we got the information about the killing of an elephant, two forest personnel rushed to the spot along with some workers. They told me there was a crowd near the dead elephant but when they reached the site, it dispersed. However, they got to know on enquiry that there were six armed poachers who pushed off before they arrived. Since the forest personnel were unarmed, they did not go in search of the poachers.”

In Goalpara, chief conservator of forests D.P. Haraprasad, who is at the spot where the injured elephant is struggling for life, said the forest department was “doing” its best to help the animal get on its feet. “We have given the elephant medication but nothing much has happened till now. We have requisitioned two kunkis from Manas to help it back on its feet.”

The kunkis were, according to last reports, trying to pull the animal out of the mud pit but had not succeded so far.

Haraprasad said the elephant had a swollen leg from a fall in a marshy area and its broken tusks and other injuries were a case of in-herd fighting.

Goalpara divisional forest officer Mukesh Ali said the elephant was responding to treatment.

Kushal K. Sarma, a professor at the College of Veterinary Sciences who is treating the elephant, ruled out poaching and said the animal’s injury was the result of in-herd fighting. “This sort of incident is natural in elephant herds. This is a juvenile elephant with a small tusk. So it was not an act of poachers but herd fighting led to injuries on parts of its body.”

Parbati Barua, an internationally acclaimed elephant expert, however, urged the government to institute a high-level inquiry. She told The Telegraph that whether the elephant had sustained injuries during in-herd fighting or was injured by poachers while chopping off its tusk could be ascertained only after a probe. “The inquiry must be done by a high-level team and wildlife experts who have worked for the cause of the elephants,” she added.

Kulodhar Das, president of Nature’s Friend, an NGO, also demanded a government probe.

Ali said a committee to look after the well-being of the elephant had been formed. Besides himself, it would comprise the additional conservator of forests and a vet, among others. He said the elephant’s condition was slightly better and would hopefully improve.


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