Delhi's last elephant missing for two months found at last
Drama before & after
Delhi’s last remaining elephant, Laxmi, being pursued by the forest department for over two months now, was found in Yamuna Khadar near east Delhi’s Shakarpur in the early hours of Wednesday. It took members of an animal rescue organisation a dramatic 10 hours to complete the 47-year-old animal’s transfer to the forest nursery at ITO.
The elephant was located by police around 3am. While the mahout, Saddam, was arrested and taken to Shakarpur police station, a team from Wildlife SOS was called to assist the forest department in transporting the animal to its temporary halt before being sent to an elephant rehabilitation centre in Ban Santour, Haryana. “We conducted a raid and arrested the mahout before informing the forest officials of Laxmi’s detection,” said Jasmeet Singh, DCP (East).
Lost and found
The place where the animal was found is less than a kilometre from the office of the DCP (East) and forest officials expressed surprise, therefore, that it had taken over two months to detect its whereabouts.
A Wildlife SOS official said that the NGO arranged a 10-wheel truck to transport the animal and summoned a team of four trained elephant handlers and a veterinarian from its Elephant Conservation & Care Centre in Mathura. Delhi’s chief wildlife warden Prabhat Tyagi and wildlife officer Dr K S Jayachandran coordinated the operations through the night with Wildlife SOS team.
However, just as the team began the attempt to calm the elephant and get it to climb on the truck, a mob supporting the mahout barracked the rescuers and wildlife officers, disturbing Laxmi in the process. “Police had to send for reinforcements to disburse the crowd,” revealed a Wildlife SOS official. The upset animal refused to budge.
It was some time before Laxmi appeared cooperative and got into the truck. “The effort to shift the animal took several hours and the elephant was exhausted by the process,” explained a forest department official. “Elephants do not like cramped places and it was difficult to put it in the truck. The crowd that had gathered only made the task more difficult.”
Escorted by police personnel, the truck, with Laxmi and the rescue team, proceeded to ITO. The animal is being kept at a nursery while preparations are being made for its onward shift to Haryana. “We will monitor the animal and keep it under observation till then,” the forest official said.
Laxmi was the only elephant remaining in Delhi after the forest department shifted five others to Gujarat and Haryana. Amendments made in 1991 to the Wildlife Protection Act had made it mandatory for elephants to be registered with the forest department. Registration, however, entailed the owner making proper provisions for the animal’s housing, health and upkeep, failing which the elephant was liable to be taken away from the owner.
A forest department inspection had found Laxmi’s maintenance falling short of the required norms and it decided to shift the elephant to Haryana. Officials went to seize Laxmi on July 6, but the animal and its owner had fled from the spot. An FIR had been registered and a look-out alert issued for the elephant.