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Mahout drunk, jumbo escapes

Alipurduar, April 22: A kunki yesterday broke its iron chains and walked into a tea estate when its mahout lay intoxicated in the Jaldapara forest.

Luckily, neither did the elephant harm anyone on the human habitat it walked into, nor did anyone try to hurt the animal.

The mahout, Anil Tirki, has been told not to join work from today by the divisional forest officer. The elephant, Anusua, which had strayed over 10km into the Birpara tea estate, has been brought back to the forest with the help of another mahout.

According to forest sources, about 11am yesterday, Anil took Anusua to graze in Chhekamari under Madarihat police station, Alipurduar. Around noon, Anil tied Anusua to a tree with iron chains and started drinking liquor. While Anil got intoxicated, he did not notice that the elephant had freed itself from the chains and disappeared.

The elephant, trained in search and rescue and a part of the forest force, walked 2km and reached NH31C. It then started walking towards Birpara. Villagers who spotted a drunk Anil also informed the forest staff that the elephant had escaped.

Around 3pm, the foresters took Anil in a vehicle out to search for Anusua. In the meantime, the elephant had already reached Birpara Tea Estate. However, it did not cause any harm to anybody. The foresters from Jaldapara north range tried their best but failed to take the elephant towards Jaldapara.

Then, another mahout Aimul Haq was taken to the spot to bring the elephant back. Around 8pm, the foresters managed to direct the elephant towards Jaldapara.

Rajendra Jakhar, the divisional forest officer of Jaldapara National Park, said: “It was carelessness on the part of the mahout. How could he not notice that his elephant was missing. I asked him not to join duty. We are lucky that the elephant didn’t cause any harm and it was also unhurt. We started a probe to find out why Anil let the animal escape.”