Nine years after the death of its “most dependable” elephant Arundhati, authorities at the Rajaji Tiger Reserve have restarted the elephant safari, this time betting on three tuskers — Raja, Rangeeli and Radha.
Arundhati, which was called the “elephant queen of Indian jungles”, had served at the Rajaji reserve from 1981 till her death in 2007.
According to the former Uttarakhand Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Srikant Chandola, “After the death of Rajaji’s finest and most dependable Arundhati, only male elephants were mostly left in the tiger reserve [then, Rajaji National Park]. Mahouts find it difficult to control male elephants.”
Former Director of Rajaji National Park S.S. Rasaily added: “There was no elephant safari in Rajaji after Arundhati’s death [in 2007] since most of the elephants brought into the Park were court properties and could not be used for safaris.”
The tiger reserve, located at the foothills of the Himalayas, is spread across 1,075 sq. km in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun, Haridwar and Pauri districts. The elephant safari, however, is limited to the Chilla sub-division in Pauri district.
The safari resumed on November 15 when the three tuskers took tourists on an hour-long safari covering about 4 km of the reserve.
Sanatan Sonkar, Director, Rajaji Tiger Reserve, said: “Raja, Rangeeli and Radha were trained for almost a year before we deployed them for jungle safaris.” Mahouts were brought in from Assam to train the elephants, Ajay Kumar Sharma, Wildlife Warden of Chilla, said.