The trio at Dalma foothills. Picture by Bhola Prasad
There is romance brewing in the forests of Makulakocha, and villagers living in the vicinity could not be happier.
The characters in the love story playing out 20km from the steel city are all, hold your breath, elephants.
Two male elephants from Dalma hills are wooing Pagli, Basanti and Champa – three rescued female jumbos who have been anchored in Makulakocha for over two years now — in earnest. The new development has caught forest staff and villagers who look after the three and four-year-old Rajni, by surprise.
For the past week, the ardent suitors have been ambling into Makulakocha around 9pm daily, only to trek back to the hills after five or six hours. So engrossed are the elephants in their new-found friendship that they are showing no interest in exploring human settlements nearby to forage for food.
According to forest guard Kaleshwar Bhagat, Pagli, Basanti and Champa, who are chained to tree trunks at night after their return from the hills, start trumpeting to welcome their two new friends as they approach. To make them feel welcome, the three also share the fodder that is provided by the forest department with their “guests.”
“The elephants have mated but we are not sure if any of the three have conceived,” Bhagat, who has been a guard at Dalma for over two decades, added.
Makulakocha resident Deosharan Tudu said the bonhomie among the elephants keeps them away from human settlements.
“The wild elephants don’t miss their date with the girls. They just love to be in the company of the three females,” he laughed.
He added that the two males make sure they play with the four-year-old Rajni for some time before concentrating on the three older ladies.
Mangal Kashyap, range officer of Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary said he was aware of the developments at Makulakocha and was keeping a watch.
Rajni, separated from her herd and found seriously wounded in Ichagarh, Seraikela-Kharsawan, over a year ago, had also made friends with a herd of six adult elephants who used to trek down Dalma hills and walk 16-18 km to meet her last year. Though that friendship fizzled out, questions were raised about Rajni’s release into the wild.
“Wild elephants mating domesticated ones is not usual. We are already footing huge bills towards feeding the four rescued animals in Makulakocha. Now we may have more to deal with,” a forester said on condition of anonymity.
The Ranchi wildlife division feed the four a quintal of khichhdi and fresh vegetables per day, running up a daily bill of Rs 2,500. The three adult females were rescued from a gang, which used them for begging at Jamtara in 2010.
Incidentally, the owner of Pagli, Champa and Basanti had come to Makulakocha to see the three accompanied by a forest official from Uttar Pradesh. The owner has approached an Allahabad court to seek the release of the elephants.