Video clips of baby elephant rescue by Pollachi foresters go viral

IAS officer Supriya Sahu said it is the fifth rescue in the last two years by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department.


Published Feb 24, 2024 | 5:08 PMUpdatedFeb 24, 2024 | 5:08 PM

baby elephant rescue

For the past few weeks, elephants from the Western Ghats, which have caused a lot of anxiety by venturing into in Kerala towns resulting in the death of two people, have been splitting social media in two over the ramifications involved in managing human-animal conflicts.

This morning though, all stood united and rooted for both men and animals when a video of the rescue of a baby elephant by foresters in Pollachi was posted on X.

Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forests, Tamil Nadu government, had posted on X a series of video clips, which documented the rescue operation of the team led by IFS officer Ramasubramanian, Field Director of Anamalai Tiger Reserve.

“Our hearts are melting with joy to see the elephant mother raising her trunk to thank our foresters after they rescued and united a very young baby elephant with the mother.”

“The baby had slipped and fallen into a canal in Pollachi in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu. The mother tried hard to rescue the baby but the young one was unable to come out due to strong water flow. Kudos to the team for their exceptional efforts which led to the successful reunion even though the operation was fraught with risks,” Sahu posted.

She went on to credit the entire team involved in the operation.

“Fabulous work by FD Ramasubramanian, DD B Teja, Pugalenthi FRO, Thilakar forester, Saravanan forest guard, Vellingiri forest guard, Murali, forest watcher, Balu APW, Nagaraj APW, Mahesh APW & Chinnathan forest guard,” she wrote on X.

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Dangers of the job

Within an hour of posting, the videos managed to get over 10,000 views, with most commenting on how heartwarming it is to hear such news. At the time of publishing the report, the post saw 38,000 views.

But Sahu told PTI over the phone that when she posted the videos, she also wanted to highlight the dangers the foresters face on the job.

“It may look easy. But do you know that we lost a man in a similar rescue operation not so long ago? The life of a forester is very challenging,” said Sahu.

Ramasubramanian said three years ago not only were they unable to rescue the baby elephant, but the forester who jumped in to save it also drowned along with the animal.

“The canal, which runs 48km along the border of Anamalai Tiger Reserve, connecting to Thirumurthy dam, is quite treacherous because there is a stretch of tunnel that spans almost 20km. When animals fall in, and if we do not rescue them before they enter the tunnel, they invariably die,” added Ramasubramanian.

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Distress call of the mother

He said last evening the foresters patrolling the area heard the distress call of the mother elephant and went to check.

“It was a very risky operation because initially, the mother elephant was guarding the baby. In such instances, if we interfere, they usually charge at us. But when it realised that we were only trying to help, the mother elephant thankfully stepped back and watched us rescue from a distance. Time was of the essence yesterday and even a slight delay could have changed the outcome,” said Ramasubramanian.

Sahu said it is the fifth rescue in the last two years by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, and the team has gained some amount of expertise’ over the years.

“We are also focusing a lot on rewilding. The easiest thing to do is to get such rescued babies to elephant camps, but we try to reunite them with the mothers as much as possible. In the long run, that would be the best course of action,” said Sahu.

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Human-animal conflicts

Sahu also said as far as human-animal conflicts are concerned, no solution can be fruitful if it is not done as a team.

“It is not just about foresters doing their work. The Collector must be fully involved; the superintendent of the police must be in the loop. The political will should be there too,” said the IAS officer, who has been at the forefront of many such coordinated efforts by the Tamil Nadu Forest department.

Pointing out that each operation is unique as it faces its own sets of challenges, Sahu said in general, if the team sits down and looks at the bigger picture, it is possible to minimise the impact of human-animal conflicts.

“For instance, one must ensure there is an experienced doctor around while tranquilising. Translocation can be a good solution, but it is very important that the team chooses the location carefully, after all elephants are free ranging animals and walk 30 to 40 km a day and can stray into other towns too like in the case of Ari Komban,” added Sahu.

Sahu also believes that working with the local community and gaining their trust is the key ultimately. “A good, alert mechanism, ensuring no loss of life and timely ex-gratia in case of any unfortunate incident go a long way in building the trust of the people who are directly affected by the human-animal conflicts.”

“And yes, the media plays an important role too how they cover and what they focus on often makes a difference in creating awareness about the issue,” she added.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)