Chikkamagaluru: Employing an earthmover to drag timber at coffee plantations is a costly affair for planters, who have to cough up Rs 1,000 an hour. But hiring an elephant for timber work is cheap labour, though illegal. A bull elephant, ferried from Malappuram in Kerala to Chikkamagaluru for the task, has been rescued by forest officials.
The elephant was ferried to Chikkamagaluru specifically to lift timber, said Range Forest Officer Shilpa. As the animal had no transit permission, forest officials took into custody the elephant, its mahout Manikantan and truck driver Muneer after filing cases under the Wildlife Protection Act. The elephant was owned by private parties, she said.
The truck carrying the elephant was passing through Pandaravalli of Chikkamagaluru on Saturday evening when wildlife conservationist D.V. Girish, who too was driving on the road, spotted the jumbo and questioned the mahout. The mahout told Girish that the elephant was being transported from Kozhikode in Kerala for timber work at Chikkamagaluru.
Acting on Girish’s tipoff, forest officials led by RFO Shilpa rescued the jumbo, which had covered 400 km from Malappuram. Wildlife activist G. Veeresh said that the practice of employing elephants to drag timber has been banned in the state, but it continues in coffee plantations of Sakleshpur, Chikkamagaluru and others areas clandestinely.
Veeresh said that planters prefer elephants to machines, as employing an earthmover for timber dragging costs Rs 800-1,000 per hour, while jumbos cost much lesser. The activist said that the jumbo had not been fed when it was rescued by forest officials. The planter who hired the elephant was not immediately known.