Pressure is mounting on the Karnataka Forest Department to release elephant Kusha who has been recaptured from the wild after it strayed from Dubare Elephant Camp in Kodagu. Animal rights activist and former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who is a sitting MP, has written to People for Animals (PFA) Mysuru to look into the issue and has also highlighted the way Kusha has been chained after being brought out of the Kraal.
Pressure is on the Department to release him back to the forest since he has not harmed any humans. If deemed necessary to be tracked and monitored closely for safety, there have been offers by NGOs to fund a radio satellite collar for him.
Kusha, the 27-year-old male elephant that went missing from Dubare Elephant Camp in Kodagu district one-and-a-half years ago was put in Kraal at Dubare recently. Kraal is a wooden log enclosure into which elephants are driven to be tamed.
The elephant, in a ‘Musth’ condition, had ventured into the forests after breaking his heavy chain in search of a mate and had not returned. He had found a mate and was in no mood to return. He was caught in the last week of March and as was separated from his mate using force, Kusha was showing unruly behaviour and this is the reason why he was put into a Kraal, said Department officials.
Ethical questions raised
The forcible capture of elephant Kusha while the animal was with its companion has raised ethical questions and the Forest Department had justified the capture and said that the Department had considered the option of leaving Kusha in the wild but later decided to capture it to avoid possible man-animal conflicts.
Following a campaign from wildlife and animal rights activists, Maneka Gandhi has written to PFA, where she has stated that the elephant Kusha was kept in a Kraal in Dubare and beaten for months for no reason.“He was in the Kraal because he had a leg wound that was being treated. A team was sent by the Chief Wildlife Warden and this was found to be untrue. Then, when the Chief Wildlife Warden intervened and ordered his release, he was let out yesterday but with such heavy short chains on his front legs that his legs will break because he cannot move at all,” she stated in the letter sent on Apr.24.
“The chains should be removed immediately. The Chief Wildlife Warden is a knowledgeable and compassionate man, but clearly, the officers in the sanctuaries of Karnataka should be retrained, Maneka added and urged the Department to release Kusha back into the wild.
PFA(People For Animals) sends vet
Following Maneka’s letter that Kusha has been kept in Dubare under poor condition, PFA’s Savitha Nagabhushan sent senior veterinarian Dr. Amardeep Singh to ascertain Kusha’s condition. The vet has reported back to PFA that the elephant is kept in an open space and no wound or injury was found on the body of the animal. The elephant is healthy and in a good condition, the report said.
A researcher and conservationist stated on condition of anonymity that Kusha is a wild tusker who cannot be denied his true home, the forest. “To alienate him from the wilderness is an act of cruelty. The elephant has not killed any human being in the past. To re-capture him and put him in a Kraal does not make logical sense,” she told Star of Mysore.
“If the Department is worried about Kusha attacking humans or raiding crops, he can be radio-collared and tracked. One more chance for freedom should be given to Kusha. Seven elephants have been recently radio-collared for tracking purposes in Chamarajanagar Division. Let Kusha be the eighth,” she added.
Coorg Wildlife Society Vice-President Bose Madappa said that the Government must consider Kusha’s case as a special one and release him back to the woods after radio-collaring.
Kusha kept in Kraal for only two days: DRFO
Tusker Kusha is healthy now and there are no injury marks on his body. We had kept it in Kraal only for two days as mingling with wild herds, Kusha had forgotten commands. We had to train him for him to mingle with the other tamed elephants at Dubare, Deputy Range Forest Officer Ranjan told SOM.
Kusha is not chained for the whole day and it is taken with all the elephants every morning to bathe and is later fed. “We then release him along with all elephants to eat grass and leaves in the forest. He returns to the camp in the evening and responds when called for. We have taken all precautions and Kusha is chained only in the night,” Kavadi Dinesh said.