A notorious elephant that terrorized villages and allegedly trampled a man to death in India has been captured by authorities.
The elephant, officially known as PT-7, had been wreaking havoc in villages across the Palakkad and Idukki districts of Kerala for two years, local media reported.
The tusker had been responsible for 176 crop-raiding incidents and had damaged property 13 times, a 2022 Kerala Forest Department report said.
But local people claimed there had been at least over 500 incidents involving the creature.
Villagers claim the elephant had also killed a 60-year-old who was taking a morning stroll in July 2022. The Forest Department however, was unable to identify whether it had been responsible.
Local farmers were distressed at the amount of times the elephant destroyed crops. One told the Hindustan Times: “Usually animals invade crops for food but PT-7 enjoyed simply destroying farms. We suffered badly after it destroyed crops worth several lakhs of rupees.”
Human/elephant conflict has been on the rise in India for years. The increase is largely due to habitat loss. As human development projects expand, elephant habitats are becoming smaller, which forces humans and wildlife together. Fragmented habitats can also cause “crop raiding” instances, when elephants stray onto farmlands in search of food and water, ruining growing crops.
The decision was taken to capture PT-7 several recent violent incidents. In November 2022, it charged at a man in Dhoni, Palakkad, who broke his arm while running from the animal.
In recent months, the elephant had also been attacking cars and chasing humans. Wildlife officials said this was likely due to the elephant experiencing musth—a period where male elephants act more aggressively during mating season due to larger amounts of testosterone in their body.
It took forest department teams 6 hours to track the elephant down on January 22. After starting the operation at 4 a.m, the team spotted the animal traveling with two other elephants in an area between Mundur and Dhoni.
By 7.10 a.m. teams were able to dart the elephant with a tranquilizer. After 45 minutes, it fell unconscious.
The plan is for the elephant to be trained as a Kumki elephant. Kumki elephants are captive elephants that are specifically trained to catch wild elephants. Occasionally these elephants are also used to rescue wild elephants that are injured.
Officials will have to wait for the elephant to pass being in musth before he is trained.
India is home to almost 60 percent of Earth’s remaining Asian elephant population. There are fewer than 22,000 left in the wild, with approximately 2,700 in captivity.
Newsweek has contacted the Kerala Forest Department for more information.
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