'Top' jumbo returns, foresters relieved

Sambhu comes back to Jaldapara National Park after six days of hide-and-seek

By Our correspondent in Alipurduar
  • Published 18.04.15
Sambhu and his mahout Durga Oraon in Holong beat of Jaldapara National Park near Alipurduar on Friday. Picture by Anirban Choudhury

Alipurduar, April 17: A valued pet elephant of the state forest department that strayed away last Saturday was tranquillised and brought back to the Jaldapara National Park today.

Sambhu, the 35-year-old elephant, had several times played a vital role in controlling rhinos, other elephants and bisons that had strayed out of the forest. The jumbo was also taken to south Bengal to rescue people stranded in floods.

This morning, the foresters spotted Sambhu in a forested area between Moiradanga and Kunjanagar beat under the Jaldapara West Range. They then brought two kunkis - Rudraprasad and Sarmila - to the spot.

Sambhu tried to flee but the kunkis, which aid foresters in monitoring duties, ringed the elephant and it was tranquillised.

The elephant stood on the same spot for 10 minutes and it was then that Sambhu's mahout, Durga Oraon, tied an iron chain to a fore leg and a hind leg of the animal.

With the help of the kunkis Sambhu was brought to Holong Pilkhana, around 50km from Alipurduar town.

Elephants that get separated from a herd or stray out of forests are known to move into human habitat zones. Often the elephants ruin crops and homes.

Pranab Kumar Das, the range officer of Jaldapara West, said: "For the last six days, Sambhu had us worried. We were able to find him today. For the next seven days, he will be given complete rest, and then considering the situation, we will take a decision. We had to tranquillise the elephant to bring him back."

Oraon said: "Last Saturday, my brother and I were on Sambhu's back and the animal was grazing. Suddenly, another kunki, Chandrima, got scared after seeing a bison and started running. Chandrima collided with Sambhu and we fell to the ground from his back. Sambhu had also got scared by then and did not allow any of us to go near him. I was really surprised at his behaviour."

A forest source said Sambhu was missing for several hours after that.

The foresters first spotted him again on Sunday morning 2km away from the beat office.

The foresters and the mahout tried to take him back with them but the elephant chased away all the forest staff, including the mahout.

Later, the foresters tried to tranquillise the jumbo a number of times, but failed.

They were successful in tranquillising the animal today.

The source added that the foresters were worried that if Sambhu joined an elephant herd, it would be a great loss for national park as he is one of their top pet elephants.