In a shocking incident, Captain Arjuna, the celebrated elephant who carried the Mysore Dussehra howdah eight times between 2012 and 2019, met an untimely demise during a forest operation to capture a wildebeest. The incident has sparked controversy, raising questions about the circumstances surrounding Arjuna’s death and fueling public outrage against the forest officials involved.
Arjuna’s funeral, which took place today, was not without its share of controversy. The forest department had initially planned to conduct the last rites in the Dabbalikatte forest near Yasalur in Sakaleshpur taluk, where the tragic incident occurred. However, local residents vehemently opposed this decision, demanding that the cremation take place elsewhere to allow for the construction of a memorial. Tensions escalated, leading to a lathi-charge by the police.
The official version of events provided by the Forest Department claims that Arjuna succumbed to a fatal blow to the abdomen near the left ear during the operation. According to their account, the targeted wildebeest attacked Arjuna, causing severe bleeding and instantaneous death.
However, conflicting narratives have emerged from eyewitnesses, particularly those who participated in the operation. Some allege that a forest guard’s shot, intended for the wildebeest, missed its mark and struck Arjuna’s leg, causing the elephant to fall. Subsequently, witnesses claim that the wildebeest attacked Arjuna, leading to his demise.
The operation, spanning the Aalur, Belur, Sakaleshpur, and Yasalur zones of the Hassan forest division, aimed to capture and relocate a group of wild boars identified near Dabbalikatte in Yasalur. Members of the Elephant Task Force and special Kavadigars, along with elephants Arjuna, Sugriva, Ashwathama, Dhananjaya, Karnataka Bhima, and Prashantha, were enlisted for the operation.
Nagarhole National Park Veterinarians, along with officials from the Dubare Elephant Camp, were present during the operation. The Forest Department insists that the operation was launched after identifying a group of wildebeest in the targeted jungle, necessitating intervention.