An elephant carcass was found by forest officials in Palamangala village of Kodagu district on Thursday after it was shot dead by unknown persons.
The officials from the Virajpet range forest office in the district believe that the elephant was shot dead on Wednesday using a single-barrel gun. "We received information from local residents that an elephant's body had been found. When we checked the body, there was a visible bullet wound and we tried to retrace the steps of the elephant by following the blood trail, we found that it led to a house nearby but the person accused of shooting the elephant was not there. He is absconding," said Gopal, a forest officer in the Virajpet range.
A post-mortem of the elephant was conducted by Dr Mujheeb, a veterinary doctor at the Nagarahole elephant camp. "It is likely that an old stock of bullets was used to shoot down the elephant. You don't get the bullet used in the market. It was not a modified bullet," Gopal said.
The death of the elephant comes just days after a wounded elephant was rescued and treated by forest officials in the same village. While residents of the village believe it is the same elephant that has been killed, forest officials are less sure that this is the case.
A senior forest official claimed that the slain elephant was similar in age and size to the elephant rescued recently. However a few marks on the tusk of the rescued elephant, which were caused during the rescue act, were missing in the elephant carcass found on Thursday. "The rescued elephant was left free in a nearby forest. This elephant is very similar to the rescued elephant however during the rescue, there were a few injuries caused by the tusks of the elephant hitting a jeep which is not visible on the elephant that was shot," says the forest official.
Senior forest officials are still unwilling to rule out the possibility that the rescued elephant was shot dead. "It could be the same elephant. We are not sure yet. We are focused on catching the persons who shot the elephant. We will be investigating this matter and have booked a case in the local court," Maria Christhu Raja, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) of Virajpet told TNM.
Forest officials have lodged a complaint against the accused and are investigating the incident. The latest incident comes at a time of rising human-elephant conflict in the forests of Kodagu, which has led to the loss of the lives of both humans and elephants. Forest officials attribute the spike in conflict to the lack of water available in the forest prompting elephants to turn to coffee and other plantations in the district in search of water.
Over the years, forest officials have attempted digging elephant trenches, setting up solar fencing, iron fencing, spike pillars among other solutions to resolve this problem. The construction of the Hemavathi, Harangi and Chiklihole reservoirs along with power lines, highways and hydel projects have led to the forests of Kattepura and Yedavanadu-Aanekaadu in north Kodagu to be disconnected from the southern forests of Dubaree, Mavukal, Demavachi, leading to smaller habitats for the animals.