A rogue elephant was shot dead in the forests of southern West Bengal by authorised hunters as a "last resort" and as per a decision of the state government after efforts to capture it failed, officials said here on Wednesday.
"Strenuous efforts" were made earlier for two days to tranquilise and capture the tusker, they added.
Four tranquilising teams, two hunters providing protection to the teams, and five "kumki" elephants (tamed and trained pachyderms) were involved in the attempts to capture the rogue jumbo which had killed one person and injured six others over 2015. The tusker was declared "extremely aggressive and dangerous to life and property".
"On July 5, seven attempts were made to tranquilise the rogue elephant but each time it would charge the personnel and then escape into the forest in Beliatore forests of Bankura district," Chandan Sinha, Principal Secretary of the Forest Department, told reporters here.
"The elephant also attacked some of our tranquilising team members and chased the hunters. Attempts across two days did not lead to its capture and lives of the team members were at risk. Several had a narrow escape. So, the authorities decided to hunt down the elephant," Sinha added.
Six rounds of firing were used after tranquilisation attempts failed and initially a drone was used to track the animal.
"Initially, we used unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to locate it but when the elephant entered dense forest, the UAV was unable to provide pictures," said Pradeep Vyas, Chief Wildlife Warden of West Bengal.
Sinha said the elephant was brought down around 5 p.m. on July 5 and a post-mortem examination has been carried out. The report is awaited.
The rogue elephant's smaller companion was captured and has been sent to north Bengal for rehabilitation.
Justifying the shooting, Vyas said the elephant-human conflict had reached an alarming situation and there was no option, given the apprehension of locals "taking law into their own hands".
"In 2015-2016, 108 people were killed and 95 injured by wild elephants in the state. A total of 14 elephants have been killed in retaliation. The last elephant killing was in 2010. We have reached an alarming situation in Bengal," Vyas said.
Although West Bengal has only two per cent of India's elephant population (over 31,000 jumbos), they are responsible for over 20 per cent of human deaths in the country, officials said.
The state government is monitoring elephant movements on a daily basis in the entire state.
"We have formed a special committee called Elephant Movement Co-ordination Committee for south-west Bengal for monitoring movements and ensuring unnecessary barriers are not caused in the smooth passage of elephants. This has been functioning since last two months. We are also doing barrier mapping. We have launched solitary elephant dossier to track such animals," said Vyas.
West Bengal is awaiting the central government's nod to catch 18 wild elephants but it has reiterated it does not intend to kill them.
The killing comes a month after Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi accused former Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar of permitting the "killing of animals" across the country.
"In Bengal, they have permitted the killing of elephants, in Himachal Pradesh they have ordered killing of monkeys, and in Goa they gave permission to kill peacocks. I don't understand their lust for killing animals," Gandhi had said following the culling of Nilgais in Bihar.