This tusker is too 'Active'

Ten murders in four months. Suspect at large…

A crime thriller is being played out in the wilderness, as forest officers, guards and guides at the Periyar tiger reserve are puzzled by the goring of elephants, nine of them female, since February 26. The latest carcass, found on Monday morning, was of a 15-year-old female. “There was a punctured wound inflicted by another animal, possibly an elephant. It died after the wound got infected,” said PP Pramod, deputy director, Project Tiger, at Periyar. Another female was found dead last week.

“Sparring for fodder or a mate is common among animals. We are not sure if an animal is behind the attacks. We are looking at different angles,” he added. A tusker in musth — a stage when a male elephant becomes very sexually active — blamed for earlier attacks, has retreated to the deep forest, he said.

The department bumped into the nine-foot beast with 1.5-foot tusks at the lakeside on March 27, a month after the first carcass was found floating in the lake. The female had died of an 18-cm deep wound. After four more females succumbed to similar wounds, the forest department arrived at a “serial rapist” theory and formed a team to locate the suspect.

Though the department is not ready to accuse the 20- to 30-year-old tusker of the killings, five more elephants have died till now. Guides testify that the tusker was found to be abnormally aggressive even before. The observation team recommended a radio-collar for the tusker, but he hasn’t been spotted after May 14.

Conservationists say the incidents point to a larger problem in the tiger reserve, brought under Project Elephant in 1991. “The elephants were possibly killed by a tusker in musth. When females are not receptive to such a tusker, he becomes aggressive and injures them. You can call it rape,” said Dr Jacob V Cheeran, a conservationist.
“Normally, the bull elephant suppresses the sub-adults’ musth and maintains ‘law and order’ in the community. The problem is we have very few bull elephants at Periyar. Though the reserve has stepped up conservation, the damage has been done.”

Reports: DNA

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