Complaint lodged in Karnataka forest department sharpshooter death case

Venkatesh, tasked with tranquilising an injured wild elephant in Hassan, was trampled to death by it in what his son has blamed as negligence by forest officials 

'Aane Venkatesh' was trampled by an injured wild elephant as he was trying to tranquilise it. Photo: M Raghuram
‘Aane Venkatesh’ was trampled by an injured wild elephant as he was trying to tranquilise it. Photo: M Raghuram

Experts have claimed that protocol was not followed after a sharpshooter from the Karnataka Forest Department was trampled to death by an injured wild elephant in the state’s Haasan district on August 31, 2023. A First Information Report (FIR) has also been filed by the deceased’s son against senior officials claiming negligence.

The experts have also emphasised the importance of adhering to established protocols and precautions when tranquillising elephants, both for the safety of personnel and the well-being of the animals involved.

The FIR for the case was registered at the Aluru Police Station. It stated that the heart-breaking incident unfolded when a specialist (‘Aane Venkatesh’) was summoned to administer tranquillisers to an injured elephant in the Aluru range of Hassan district.

However, it appears that inadequate precautions were taken to guarantee the safety of the personnel involved in the operation.

The case, registered by the police, targets the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Assistant Conservator of Forests, and Range Forest Officer. Negligence is alleged to have stemmed from the reckless dispatch of anaesthetics without proper safety measures. This lapse in safety protocols ultimately led to the fatal attack on Venkatesh by the wild elephant during the treatment process.

Operation: Negligence Alleged

Before any tranquilisation attempt, a thorough assessment of the elephant’s condition and behaviour should be conducted, according to the forest department manual. This assessment helps determine the appropriate dosage of tranquillisers and the safest approach.

In this case, the behavioural pattern was not studied by the forest officials prior to launching a tranquilising the elephant.

Only trained and experienced personnel should be involved in tranquilising operations. A specialist with expertise in elephant behaviour and tranquilisation should be present. Venkatesh was the most qualified to carry out the task. 

Yedukondalu, an officer currently posted in Kolar and one of Venkatesh’s long-time friends told this reporter: “He was a legend. He had helped forest departments of 16 Indian states and also neighbouring countries.”

But in the final step, Venkatesh did not have support when the elephant chased him into a thicket and trampled him.

The FIR also stated that the forest department officials had failed to establish a safe perimeter around the elephant to keep unauthorised individuals and onlookers at a distance.

According to a senior forest official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the tranquilising team did not use tactics to divert the attention of the animal away from Venkatesh, which gave the elephant an opportunity to chase him.

The incident serves as a grim reminder of the risks associated with tranquilisation operations and underscores the imperative to prioritise safety and adherence to guidelines to prevent such tragedies in the future. 

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