After a long chase that lasted for over a month, wild tusker Arikomban was tranquilised and captured on Monday in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. Arikomban was located and captured at Chinnaobulapuram village of Chinnamanur block in Theni district, bordering Kerala.
The tusker, who got the sobriquet Arikomban because of his fondness for rice, was taken by the forest officials in a huge truck to be left deep inside the forest in Tirunelveli, about 200km away from Theni.
At around 3 am on Monday, the Tamil Nadu forest department officials spotted the tusker when it strayed into the Chinnaobulapuram village. A four-member veterinary team, which was waiting for the elephant with tranquilisers, captured Arikomban. It took two shots of the anesthetic to bring the elephant down. The forest officials bound both its legs then, brought three Kumki elephants, and slowly took it out of the village in a specially designed forest department truck.
It was kumki elephants Suyambu, Udhayan and Muthu from the Top Slip Anamalai Tiger Reserve and a team of four veterinary officers who made ‘Mission Arikomban’, launched on May 27, a success. The villagers cheered and watched Arikomban being ferried out of the village.
A forest department official said they wanted to keep the mission a secret to ensure the safety of both the animal and the villagers. “We did not want anyone to panic,” the official said.
Arikomban was first captured in Kerala on April 29 and translocated from Chinnakanal to Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) following a Kerala High Court order. On May 8, the elephant was spotted in the Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve on the Meghamalai highway. Following this, the forest department imposed Section 144 and asked the tourists not to venture near Megamalai.
A few days later, the elephant entered Cumbum town in Theni district, causing panic. It ventured into the ration shops, ate bags of rice, and roamed around the village. One security officer was killed, three others injured and vehicles were damaged as Arikomban wreaked havoc in the area, leading to the imposition of Section 144 in this area as well.
Later, 23 elephant trackers were deployed to track and monitor its movements and a team of veterinarians under Dr Kalaivanan was deployed to monitor the health of the tusker. Besides, a team of 200 forest department personnel was deployed for ‘mission Arikomban’ and the movement of the elephant was monitored through a radio collar. A special control room with satellite technology was set up at the Cumbum forest range to capture the wild elephant.
Arikomban will soon be released deep inside the Kalakkad-Mudanthurai forest near Tirunelveli, the state government informed the Madurai bench of Madras High Court.