‘Operation Baahubali’ pushed as elephant eludes forest officials
Chennai: ‘Operation Baahubali’, the mission to fit a radio collar to a wild elephant, has been postponed by another 10 days as the animal continues to remain elusive to forest officials.
The adult male elephant Baahubali (nicknamed by locals after a Telegu movie character) was found in Mettupalayam, in the foothills of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district a year back. It had become routine for the locals to expect the tusker to roam around in residential localities, cross highways and enter their agricultural fields. The forest officials formally identified him as MP20T1 after they found him in Mettupalayam in 2020.
The radio collaring operation, aimed to study the pachyderm’s habitat and movements so it can be restricted to the forest regions, started on Sunday, after residents complained that the elephant destroyed their crops and property.
“He never troubled anybody and locals knew his whereabouts and timings. But recently, he began entering agricultural fields to eat and damage crops besides damaging pipelines and compound walls,” a forest officer of the Mettupalayam- Sirumugai forest range, who did not wish to be named, said. No person has been injured so far because of the animal.
Three kumkis (trained elephants) were brought from Anamalai Tiger Reserve to assist them with encircling Baahubali so he can be tranquillised and radio-collared. Four teams, which included veterinary officers and surgeons, were posted in different locations, ready to fire dart guns. The operation went on for two days.
“We came close once but the elephant mock-charged us,” the officer quoted above said. “He understood that we have been tracking him so he has remained inside the forest. About 70 of us are involved in the operation and we don’t want to agitate the animal.” The elephant is currently in Sirumugai. Coimbatore district has a floating population of about 300-350 elephants who move to Ooty and Kerala.
“If we continue the operation, the same situation will persist, so we have pushed it by another 10 days,” district forest officer D Venkatesh told reporters earlier. He added that they will wait for the tusker to venture out of the forest.