The wild elephant Rivaldo, used to living near humans in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), was trapped inside a kraal on Wednesday, a possible first step towards permanent captivity.

The elephant had become accustomed to humans as the locals regularly fed it a nutritious diet of fruit and sugar cane. He has stopped venturing into the forest in search of food in recent months, instead preferring to wander the area surrounding the village of Vazhaithottam.

Forestry Department officials said the animal was also suffering from health problems and had built a kraal (a shelter for elephants to restrict its movements, with the help of which it can be trained through a system of rewards and punishments) in Vazhaithottam. The animal was lured with food and led into the kraal, which was quickly closed.

In a statement, MTR LCS deputy director Srikanth said in a first of its kind an attempt was made to capture and tame a wild elephant without tranquilizing it.

“Rivaldo is struggling to breathe and we cannot tranquilize the animal as this could potentially lead to complications,” said Mr Srikanth, who added that the pachyderm will be kept inside the kraal and treated for injuries.

A few weeks ago, the Madras High Court issued an order that the elephant should be released into the wild after being treated for injuries.

“In accordance with the instructions of the Honorable High Court, all attempts and measures will be taken to treat Rivaldo… after a period of observation and an attempt at treatment, a decision will be made in consultation with a team of veterinarians. [on whether the elephant can be released again into the wild]Mr. Srikanth said.

The forestry department made efforts earlier to guide Rivaldo to Theppakadu elephant camp, but the elephant escaped.