Mission Belur Makhna: Public outcry leaves forest dept on toes; special team deployed for night patrolling

Public block forest officials who left Mannundi area after calling off the mission for the day. Photo: Special Arrangement

Wayanad: Hours after the forest department temporarily called off the mission to tranquilise and capture Belur Makhna, the wild elephant that trampled a man to death, natives in Mananthavady staged a protest demanding an explanation from them. On Sunday evening, the people blocked the Rapid Response Team who were leaving the Mannundi area after calling off the mission for the day. They asked the officials to provide security for their life and property. 

With an aim to pacify the agitated people, the forest department swiftly intervened and deployed special teams to patrol the affected areas. The forest officials assured that patrolling will begin from 8 pm on Sunday under 13 teams. The Rapid Response Team has shared the contact numbers of the patrolling officials with the people. Special patrolling would be ensured at four zones of the village which are prone to elephant attacks.

The forest department will resume the operation to tranquillize the killer elephant on Monday at 5.30 am. A day after the death of Mananthavady native Ajeesh, the forest department constituted a Rapid Response Team-comprising more than 100 members to tranquilise and capture the killer elephant. 

The RRT ended the 'Mission Belur Makhna' for the day on Sunday around 5. pm due to bad light and weak signals from the radio collar of the animal. But villagers of Mannundi, the focal point of the mission waylaid the vehicles of the RRT for more than 2 hours demanding protection for their lives. They declared that they would not allow the team to leave the area without assurance of their safety.  After nearly three hours, the natives allowed the forest officials to leave. 

Rapid Response Team wait in vehicles amid public protest. Photo: Special Arrangement

A mammoth crowd of men and women accosted the officials saying that there should be somebody responsible for their lives if the animal returned during the night and avenged them. 

“People are afraid that the elephant which is known for its vengeance would return and wreak havoc in the village. There are 44 families in the village and if anything happens to them there should be somebody responsible and equipped enough to save them, said a villager.

Though former MLA PK Jayalakshmi and a group of local political leaders have tried to calm down the crowd, the attempts failed to yield any results initially. However, the agitation was called off by 7:30 pm after discussions between forest officials, political leaders and local people. After holding talks with the Chief Conservator of Forests KS Deepa, the forest officials assured the people that there would be a team of officials stationed at the village to ensure the protection of the villagers.

The forest department also promised the people of Mannundi that the RRT team would resume operations on Monday morning. 

Missed tranquilizer shot
Though the RRT team attempted to dart the animal at Bavali, the target was missed as the elephant was on the move. When ‘radio collar’ signals indicated that the animal had moved into the deep forest near Mannundi village, the RRT team had a ‘no stones unturned’ search operation inside the jungle in the evening. But bad light forced the team to retreat from the mission as the animal was nowhere in the vicinity.

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