Days after a wild elephant in Masinagudi that had sustained serious burn injuries died, local residents claimed that the Forest Department delayed acting on information from the ground about the injured jumbo.
Eyewitnesses claimed to have shared information with field staff about the incident on the very night a torched object was hurled at the elephant,
The elephant, known to locals as ‘S.I’ and ‘Ronaldo’ was a frequent visitor to the Mavanallah and Vazhaithottam villages in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), due to the owners of resorts feeding the animal to draw in tourists to their establishments.
On January 3, three persons, S. Prasath, 36, from Masinagudi, M. Raymond Dean, 28 and Ricky Rayan, 31, from Vazhaithottam, threw a firebomb at the animal when it came to their illegally functioning homestay. The animal suffered from its injuries for over two weeks, till Forest Department acted on media reports to capture and treat it. However, the animal died soon after it was captured, and two of the three accused were arrested, while Ricky Rayan is absconding.
Three persons, who live near to where the incident happened, told The Hindu that the Forest Department was informed of the incident on the night the incident occurred. “We informed three local field staff. One of them even told us to stay out of the business of the Forest department,” said one of the three.
Local residents also alleged that the serious injuries to the elephant had been brought to the notice of the Forest Department, but no efforts were taken to treat the animal till January 18, more than two weeks after the incident was reported to the department.
N. Mohanraj, a Nilgiris-based conservationist, said that timely intervention and treatment could have saved the tusker, known to be a very docile, non-aggressive elephant. “The only reason the elephant had started entering the villages was because these resort owners were feeding the animal. Their actions have resulted in the mindless death of a majestic elephant, and the Forest Department should act against all the staff responsible for withholding the information,” said Mr. Mohanraj.
The family of the two accused also allegedly threatened the whistle-blowers, who shared the video of the incident to the Forest Department.
MTR Field Director K.K.Kaushal, when contacted, said that the family of the accused will be served a notice that they would be booked under the Wildlife Protection Act if they continue to intimidate local residents. “We will also follow-up, conduct an inquiry and take departmental action against the staff responsible for not sharing the information in a timely manner,” he said.