Idukki: Arikomban, the rogue tusker that has been giving sleepless nights to the residents of Chinnakanal and Shanthanpara in the Idukki district, almost thwarted the entire mission to capture him on Saturday evening.
Arikomban came dangerously close to the 'kumki' elephants that are camped in the region. The trained elephants confined near the Cement Bridge were practically defenseless when Arikomban approached them.
A timely intervention by mahouts and forest watchers forced the rogue tusker to retreat. It is unclear if Arikomban wanted to harm the kumki elephants that according to witnesses showed signs of tension.
Four kumki elephants are in the region. The trained elephants are in effect the forest department's insurance policy in the mission to rein in the rogue tusker. Kumki elephants are specially trained to either chase/capture wild elephants or rescue wounded ones.
The kumki elephants are vital to the mission to tranquillise Arikomban that remains on hold after the High Court of Kerala intervened. The court stayed the order to tranquillise the tusker saying if the region was originally an elephant habitat, it was wrong for people to settle down there.
The forest department is hoping to resume the mission when the green light is given. Meanwhile, protests continue to rage in the district over the court order. A huge crowd comprising even children is participating in a round-the-clock protest at Singukandam in Chinnakanal.
According to forest department's records, Arikomban has damaged 180 buildings and injured at least 30 persons in 18 years.
His name is a combination of Malayalam words 'ari' (rice) and komban (tusker) due to his fascination for ration shops in the region. Arikomban has reportedly raided the two ration shops in the locality over 30 times.