Chennai, Feb 13: Chinnathambi, a 25-year-old wild elephant, became an internet rage after the pachyderm was caught between the Wildlife Department and his fans.
The tusker also enjoys a fan club, Chinna Thambi Fans Association. The internet is abuzz with music videos featuring the pachyderm dancing to the tune of Thalaivar's song and people posting selfies with him in the background on the social media.
The Forest Department official said the elephant was named 'Chinnathambi' (Younger brother) by the people of Thadagam area village near Coimbatore, as the tusker frequently entered villages and became human-friendly. Acting on a complaint in mid-January that the pachyderm was raiding the crops and wandering in the brick-kilns, resulting in huge losses, the Forest Department officials captured Chinnathambi with the help of two kumkis (tamed elephants used to capture wild elephants and for wildlife safari) on January 25 and translocated the tusker to Varagaliar near Topslip Thick forest area on January 26.
But the efforts proved futile as the elephant returned and again ventured into human habitation. The pachyderm, who was being tracked with the help of a radio collar, started entering villages near Pollachi, Udumalpet and Amaravathi area, following which state Forest Minister Dindigul C Sreenivasan on last Saturday announced Chinnathambi will be captured and trained as a kumki.
He said the government has a larger role to protect the lives of the people and their agricultural fields. There is no other option left now but to capture the animal and tame it to be used as a kumki.
Elephant expert Ajay Desai, in his report to the Madras High Court, said the pachyderm should be captured and trained like all other elephants in the forest camp where it can lead a semi-natural life and be a productive part of conservation efforts. However, villagers and animal protection groups brought out posters with slogans "Save Chinnathambi" and placed them all over Coimbatore district.
The same slogans were circulated in social media.
On February 7, an animal rights body urged the government to keep Chinnathambi in its natural home, the forest. This plea came days after the Madras High Court had advised the authorities not to put the roaming jumbo to any discomfort. Chinnathambi, who was at Amaravathi Co-operative Sugar Mills near Udumalpet for a week, was now wandering in Kannadipudur, Amaravathi and Udumalpet forest areas.
The All India Muslim League (AIML) submitted a petition to the Coimbatore District Collector on Monday to spare the animal as it protected the Western Ghats from encroachers who have destroyed the flora and fauna of the forests. In its petition, AIML said the tusker should be brought back to Thadagam on the outskirts of the city from where the elephant was translocated to Varagaliyar. On Tuesday, the High Court ordered that the elephant should be taken care of in the wild. To this, the government said it will again consult the experts and act accordingly. UNI