Can he be saved? Desperate attempt to rescue elephant stuck in Kerala swamp for over 13 hours

The elephant jumped out of a lorry it was being transported in and ran amok, before getting trapped in the marsh.

In the wee hours of Tuesday, Mullakkal Balakrishnan noticed that the lorry in which he was being transported had stopped on the road. After waiting for a few minutes, he decided to jump off the lorry, and ran amok. An hour later, he fell into a marsh and has been trapped in it ever since.

Balakrishnan is a tusker owned by the Mullakkal temple under Travancore Devaswom Board in Alappuzha district, and the locals, mahouts, police, Devaswom representatives and officials of the forest department have been trying in vain to rescue him.

How did the elephant escape?

Mukkallal Balakrishnan was being transported to the temple to take part in a festival. Around 3 am, the driver of the lorry in which he was being taken stopped at Thuravoor to get some tea. The elephant broke the safety barriers at this point and jumped off the lorry.

Desperate to escape, Balakrishnan then ran amok for over an hour, and in the process, he damaged several vehicles and broke the compound wall of a house.

But as he got to a distance of 2 km from where the lorry stopped, the tusker fell into a marsh.

Local residents soon alerted the police, who rushed to the spot.

The jurisdictional Kuthiathodu police told TNM that rescue operations have entered the 13th hour. However, they have not been able to rescue the elephant yet.

“This is a very secluded area with very less connectivity and so we are not able to bring in a lorry or something to rescue him. Although the elephant is being fed glucose, he seems to be quite weak. The elephant has totally fallen down and we believe its legs are weak too. We hope to rescue him soon,” Sub-Inspector Madhu said.

He added that the degree of damage the elephant caused is yet to be ascertained.

“We are getting many complaints about damages. So far we have been told that the elephant destroyed an autorickshaw and has destroyed a wall. We will make more enquiries after the elephant is rescued,” he said.

Reacting to Asianet News, Heritage Animal Task Force secretary V K Venkitachalam accused the Devaswom board of gross negligence and violation of rules.

“For one, the elephant jumped off the lorry and ran amok and it took them hours before they could trace the animal. Most importantly, this elephant was forced to take part in a temple festival continuously for three days, before it was being taken to Mullakkal temple on Tuesday. He was denied proper food and was not taken care of. Making an elephant take part in temple processions is itself illegal,” he said.

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