The Forest Department is readying a kraal in Vazhaithottam village in The Nilgiris to capture an injured wild elephant named Rivaldo, inhabiting the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
The Madras High Court had recently said: “As far as Rivaldo is concerned…the only purpose [for assisting the animal] is to provide healing to his chopped trunk which impedes his food intake and to take care of the impaired vision in one eye. The State reports that Rivaldo is now doing well and the State does not intend to keep Rivaldo in captivity for any great length of time.”
The order pointed out that the government had agreed to release Rivaldo after treatment.
“We are building the kraal (a structure made of wood to restrict the movement of an elephant and used to tame captured wild elephants) in full view of Rivaldo, who has been with our team of forest staff for the last five days,” said L.C.S. Srikanth, Deputy Director of MTR (Buffer Zone).
According to him, Rivaldo was finding it difficult to eat and had impaired vision for which he would be treated inside the kraal. When asked to confirm if Rivaldo would be released following treatment, Mr. Srikanth said that it was a distinct possibility that Rivaldo could become acclimatised to a life in captivity if he is treated for a prolonged period of time within the kraal.
Mr. Srikanth refused to categorically state that Rivaldo would be released into the wild. He said he was yet to receive the court order.
The Nilgiris-based conservationist, N. Mohanraj, claimed there was nothing wrong with the physical health of Rivaldo.
“An elephant can be rehabilitated. It only requires the dedication of the Forest Department to ensure that people stop feeding it,” said Mr. Mohanraj. If Rivaldo is removed from the wild, “a unique Asian elephant, noted for his size and capable of emerging as one of the dominant males in the region, would be removed from the genetic pool of wild elephants.”
“Even if the elephant is unwell, it is unnecessary to intervene in what is a natural process. In the past, it was standard practice to not even take care of elephant calves that were abandoned. This sets a very bad precedent,” added another conservationist. He wondered whether all elephants which get injured in the wild would now be considered for capture.
When contacted, Field Director of MTR K.K. Kaushal, said that the department would take a call on whether or not to capture Rivaldo once they received and interpreted the order of the Madras High Court.