On Saturday, a major mission was undertaken by the forest department in Kerala to translocate a wild elephant named Arikompan from Chinnakanal, near Munnar in Idukki district.
After several hours of effort, the elephant was finally darted and shifted to a truck, which had been turned into an animal ambulance. The elephant was being translocated to a location near the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki district, which is approximately 120 kilometres from Chinnakanal.
The forest authorities did not disclose the location to which the Arikompan was being shifted, fearing possible resentment from people. The name Arikompan is an amalgamation of ‘Ari’ which means rice in Malayalam and ‘kompan’ meaning tusker.
The elephant was first spotted when it was approximately one year old in Muttukadu cardamom estate of Vaikundam Plantations near Chinnakanal. Back then, the population in the area was low, but now the number of houses has increased.
The Arikompan has been responsible for trampling as many as 11 people to death over the years
Earlier known as ‘Kallakkomban’, which means the tusker who steals, Arikompan was frequently found in 301 Colony. Fearing for their lives, some locals have moved away from the settlement. Arikompan is not a killer bull, but the rice raids have affected normal life.
Peoples’ representatives welcomed the Forest department’s decision to capture Arikompan. “The decision will come as a big relief to the people in Chinnakkanal and Santhanpara panchayats,” Santhanpara panchayat president Liju Varghese said to The Hindu.
The day’s mission began around 6 am. Arikompan was in a hilly terrain and was brought to the location identified for the mission by bursting crackers. A team led by chief veterinary surgeon Dr. Arun Zachariah tranquilized the tusker by around 12 noon. Around five rounds of booster doses were required to tranquilize the elephant. The presence of another wild elephant, named ‘Chakkakomban’, made the operation more risky.
Subsequently, four trained elephants (‘kumkis’) took position around Arikompan. Its legs were latched, and a GPS based radio collar was fixed. By around 5 pm, four kumkis pushed Arikompan to enter the truck, but in between, the tusker made resistance bids. Heavy rains in the locality also made the mission more tedious.
Later, the translocation of the elephant began with a long convoy comprising senior forest department officials. The mission is likely to be over only by the wee hours on Sunday.
The mission team worked under adverse conditions to capture Arikomban … “We shall transfer the elephant to an undisclosed location as per the court order”, Kerala Minister Minister AK Saseendran said in a press conference.