While other tamed elephants fled, Arjuna stood ground 
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While other tamed elephants fled, Arjuna stood ground 

December 5, 2023

Giant tusker that attacked Arjuna from nowhere was unidentified, says forest official 

Hassan: Arjuna, the 64-year-old elephant that carried the 750-kg Golden Howdah eight times during Mysuru Dasara, passed away yesterday following a confrontation with a wild elephant in Yeslur range forest, Sakleshpur taluk in Hassan district. The incident occurred during an operation  to capture wild elephants.

The initiative to affix radio collars on nine wild elephants commenced on Nov. 24 in Belur taluk. Tamed elephants, including Arjuna, were enlisted for the operation. 

Arjuna, accompanied by five other kumki elephants — Sugreeva, Ashwathama, Dhananjaya, Bhima and Prashantha — actively participated in the attempt to capture a wild elephant. The Forest Department had undertaken this operation to address the issue of troublesome tuskers in Sakleshpur, Alur, Belur and Yeslur ranges of Hassan.

During the operation around 11 am yesterday, the Department staff identified a tusker for capture and a herd of 12 elephants was observed. Following protocol, the target elephant needed to be separated from the group. The operation involved six trained elephants and was meticulously planned.

Around 2 pm, the staff, assisted by tamed elephants, successfully separated the tusker and was about to administer a tranquilliser dart to sedate it. However, the wild tusker charged at the tamed elephants. The Department staff fired many rounds in the air with guns but this did not scare the wild elephant. 

A different tusker?

This morning, officials in Hassan clarified that the tusker responsible for attacking Arjuna was not the one initially identified for radio-collar placement by the Forest staff.

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A forest officer informed reporters, “The wild tusker, in a musth condition, that attacked Arjuna was not identified at all. It was not in the herd, and the giant tusker attacked Arjuna all of a sudden and from nowhere. We had never seen or spotted this particular tusker.”

Reports said that Arjuna’s mahout Vinu and veterinarian Dr. Ramesh were on top of Arjuna and Dr. Ramesh could not fire the tranquilliser due to the sudden attack. Vinu and Dr. Ramesh fell to the ground safely from Arjuna’s top as he bent during the attack. While the other elephants withdrew, Arjuna stood firm, facing the charging tusker. The wild tusker’s sudden attack forced the elephants and mahouts to retreat.

Sustained deep wounds

Arjuna valiantly fought against the tusker, sustaining deep wounds. Unfortunately, he succumbed a few minutes later, leaving caretakers and staff in deep sorrow. Vinu, Arjuna’s caretaker, fainted upon learning of the tragedy and was rushed to a hospital in Sakleshpur. He had been dedicatedly associated with Arjuna for many years.

The wild elephant inflicted severe injuries to Arjuna’s abdomen and sides with a sharp tusk, leading to his demise. The intense bleeding and pain became unbearable for Arjuna, who breathed his last with great difficulty.

In the skirmish between the wild tusker and Arjuna, over two acres of vegetation were damaged, according to officials. After Arjuna fell, the staff cleared the ground to make way for cremation and other formalities. 

CM condoles Dasara elephant’s death

Chief Minister Siddharamaiah condoled the death of Arjuna recalling his majestic gait amid lakhs of people during the historical Dasara festivities as unforgettable. “The majestic walk of Arjuna remains etched in the memory of lakhs of people like me,” he said in his post on X.

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Former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy said he was deeply pained by the loss of Arjuna. “While other elephants went back, Arjuna alone fought valiantly during the operation. It is sad to know the animal is no more. I wish the Forest Department staff took enough care for their safety and safety of the animals involved in such operations,” he said.

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