Elephant hired to trap man-eater kills one in Maharashtra
A trained elephant, engaged by the forest department to help trap a tigress blamed for killing at least 14 people in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district over two years, ran amok and killed a woman on Tuesday night, a senior forest official said.
The elephant then entered a village in the adjoining Wardha district and attacked a 70-year-old-man before it was caught and chained by forest officials with help from its mahout (trainer), the official said.
The elephant, Gajraj, was brought from Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district, Maharashtra. It was one of the five elephants being used over the past 10 days to locate the elusive tigress and its two cubs.
The tigress, named T-1 or Avani, has been blamed for killing at least 14 people in Pandharkawda and Ralegaon regions over the last two years. A shoot-at-sight order was issued by the state’s principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), wildlife, last month.
State wildlife warden and PCCF (wildlife) AK Mishra, who has been camping at Pandharkawda hoping to trap the tigress, said the rogue elephant escaped from the base camp at Sawarkheda and reached Wardha river, about 20 km away.
The mahout and other staff were said to have been asleep when the elephant escaped. It attacked a woman, Archana Kulsunge, 35, of Chahand village while she was out in the fields to answer nature’s call. She died on the spot.
The elephant then entered the adjoining Pohana village, where it injured Namdeo Sawai (70). Later, a team of forest officials captured the elephant, said Mishra. Chief Conservator of Forest (Yavatmal) B G Rahurkar confirmed the two incidents.
After the Supreme Court on September 11 dismissed a plea filed by animal rights activists to only capture but not shoot the tigress, the state forest department launched a massive operation employing the five elephants and 200 personnel to trap the animal.
In view of unrest among local villagers over the killings by the big cat, Maharashtra’s forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar directed the PCCF (wildlife) to camp at Pandharkawda and supervise operations.
Mishra said of the 200 people deployed to locate the tiger, “70-80 are to ensure the safety and security of locals”, while 40 people have been engaged to install camera traps.