Wild tusker Kusha, who has been re-tamed after his escapade into the woods in search of a mate from Dubare elephant camp in Coorg, will finally be freed. His release from the elephant camp was ordered by Forest Minister Aravind Limbavali yesterday following the intervention of animal rights activist and former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi.
The sitting MP had spoken to Limbavali and apprised the Minister that Kusha has been chained and had urged him to release the elephant back into the wild. She had also informed People for Animals (PFA) Mysuru to look into the issue of the alleged ill-treatment meted out to Kusha which the Department had dismissed. The PFA Veterinarian had stated in his report that Kusha bore no injuries on its body but is chained during nights.
The Forest Minister held a meeting with senior officers from the Forest Department including Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Sanjay Mohan, who is also the Head of Forest Force, Vijaykumar Gogi, PCCF (Wildlife) and wildlife curators.
Kusha, the 27-year-old male elephant that went missing from Dubare Elephant Camp in Coorg district one-and-a-half years ago was put in Kraal at Dubare recently to re-tame him and this had raised ethical questions as to why Kusha, who was with its companion, was forcibly recaptured. Following an uproar, the animal rights activists and PFA had launched a campaign that had drawn Maneka Gandhi’s attention.
Even as the Forest Department had justified its recapture on the grounds that five years back Kusha was originally brought to the camp after capture from the wild and tamed to control human-elephant conflict and he might attack humans, wildlife activists had suggested that Kusha be released after being radio-collared.
Seven elephants of Aane Mane Foundation to be taken over
Following the campaign and Maneka’s intervention, the Forest Minister ordered Kusha’s release after radio-collaring. Before that, the Department must find a suitable place to release Kusha. He also directed the forest officials to take over seven elephants including five calves which are under the care of Prajna Chowta, who runs ‘Aane Mane Foundation’ which takes care of semi-trained elephants.
The Minister told officials that he had received multiple complaints from local residents against Chowta for running an elephant camp at Dubare, that is an elephant corridor. The Foundation manages semi-captive elephants in their natural habitat.
Chowta has carved a niche for herself being the first woman mahout in the country. She is the daughter of Darbe Krishnananda Chowta, a Tulu writer, businessman and artist and sister of Bollywood Music Director Sandeep Chowta. Her husband is French filmmaker Philippe Gautier. She has been running ‘Aane Mane Foundation’ since 2002.