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Kerala forest dept all set for high-risk operation to tame 'Arikomban'

The operation is scheduled for March 26

'Arikomban' got the moniker due to his habit of raiding ration shops 'Arikomban' got the moniker due to his habit of raiding ration shops | via Malayala Manorama

On March 26, Idukki in Kerala would witness a high-risk operation to tackle a rogue tusker 'Arikomban' (rice tusker) that has been creating havoc in the high ranges for a decade. The tusker, who got this moniker due to his habit of raiding ration shops, is believed to have killed more than 10 persons and destroyed over 60 houses and shops.

The people of Santhanpara and Chinnakanal have been demanding the capture of the rogue tusker for a long time now. In 2017, the forest department made an unsuccessful attempt. Sources say the terrain is the biggest challenge to capturing the elephant.

This time, there are elaborate preparations to capture the tusker. A 71-member rapid response team, divided in 11 groups, is participating in the mission. Chief forest veterinary surgeon Dr Arun Zachariah will lead the team. The plan is to sedate 'Arikomban' using tranquiliser shots and transfer him to the Kodanadu elephant training centre. The motor vehicle department and police will ensure protection during this transfer. The fire brigade and a medical team will be ready to deal with any emergency situation during the operation.

The operation was originally planned for March 25, but was later put off for a day. Section 144 will be imposed in selected wards in Santhanpara and Chinnakanal panchayats on the day of operation. The forest department is already conducting a mock drill.

As part of its strategy to lure the rogue tusker, the department will set up a rice bait in a dilapidated building at Chinnakkanal. This building was destroyed by 'Arikomban' a few years back.

Four kumki elephants (trained captive jumbos used in operations to capture rogue elephants) will be employed in the operation. Interestingly, sensing the smell of a kumki elephant 'Vikram' that has been brought for the operation, 'Chakkakomban' (Jack fruit tusker)—another wild tusker in the area—swam across Anayinakal dam and reached almost 500m near the captive elephant. The mahouts of the elephant and the forest department watchers sent him away by making noise.

Reports suggest the presence of 'Chakkakomban' can affect the success of the operation to capture 'Arikomban'. 'Mottavalan' and 'Murivalan' are some of the other wild elephants that cause trouble to the local people in the region. 'Cigarette Komban', another wild tusker in the region, died last month because of electrocution. 


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