Elephant Rescue, Valparai

by Ganesh Raghunathan
Ganesh Raghunathan

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Man-made structures such as open water tanks and open wells are death traps for wildlife -- from tortoises, frogs and snakes to elephants. Conservation volunteers near forest areas should map these and work with the Forest Department to close or barricade them to avoid incidents like this.

It was that time of the year again, when elephants slowly started marking their presence. Like every year, there were incidents of households getting hit here and there, thankfully, nothing major though. What is always interesting to note every year is the consistency they maintain in terms of their movement patterns, and also in the damage sites they choose! Early that morning I decided to take off from my daily routine in front of my Macbook’s hypnotizing screen. I went to one of the restoration plots with my colleague Vijay when I got a frantic call informing us about an elephant that had fallen into a tank. There wasn’t a moment to waste. After months of adrenaline rush created by leopards and gaurs, the elephants were back to continue their annual schedule. I rushed to the field with Anand and Vijay. Kulbhushan and Bhagyashree who were visiting also hopped in with us to the rescue mission.

As expected, she was one of our study individuals, part of one of the herds M. Ananda Kumar and our team have been monitoring for the past decade. Her panic-stricken calf, was trumpeting loudly and running around in the vicinity until the forest department staff got close to her. It was no easy task indeed, even for the elephant to attempt a climb. What was fortunate was that the tank was amidst a forest patch, away from houses, which made the tough part of crowd control fairly easy. For a minute, I paused and processed my memories and remembered that the herd was last sighted in that area two days ago. The thoughts of the elephant being in the tank all that while bothered me.

The immediate move by the forest department staff was to demolish the side of the tank so she could use the rubble to climb out, which was also the only practical thing to do there. We set up a go pro camera belonging to Varun Nayar who was in Vaparai as a part of a documentary. You can see the video of how the elephant climbed out of the pit!

Ganesh Raghunathan and M. Ananda Kumar of the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) have been working on mitigating Human-Elephant conflict in the Valparai plateau in the Anamalai Hills of the Western Ghats.

About the author

Ganesh Raghunathan
Ganesh Raghunathan currently works on understanding and resolving Human-Elephant conflict.


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