Laxmi, the 47-year-old female elephant that went missing two months ago and to trace whom a countrywide alert had been sounded, has been found, a Delhi forest department official said on Wednesday.
The Delhi Police "detained" the jumbo along with its mahout, Saddam, from Yamuna Pusta area in the national capital around 3 am, he said.
"We had launched a search operation on Tuesday to locate the elephant. Three teams comprising around 12 officials combed the areas along the banks of the Yamuna river and the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border.
"We requested the police to increase patrolling in the Yamuna Pusta area as we suspected the elephant was being kept somewhere there. The Shakarpur police detained the mahout and the elephant early in the morning and informed us," the official said.
The elephant is safe. It was given a bath and breakfast in the morning, he said, adding that the pachyderm will be sent to a rehabilitation centre in Haryana.
Forest department officials said Laxmi was being kept in a ground around 100 meters from the office of the Delhi Commissioner of Police (east).
The efforts to trace Laxmi were revived after media reports said the elephant had been seen in the city.
Officials of the forest and wildlife department told PTI that the locations combed included Mayur Vihar, Akshardham and Shakarpur, where the elephant was last seen on July 6, when forest department officials had gone to seize it.
"If we are able to locate the elephant, we will seize it immediately. There's no stay on its seizure. It will be brought to the forest department's nursery at ITO and sent to Ban Santoor elephant rehabilitation centre after a medical examination is conducted and necessary arrangements are made for its transportation," a forest department official had said on Tuesday.
The elephant, Laxmi, belongs to a family residing in Shakarpur.
Since the owner could not make proper arrangements for housing, maintenance and upkeep of the pachyderm, the forest department had issued a seizure notice in February this year.
The owner, Yusuf Ali (45), then moved the Delhi High Court, which said the forest department can seize the elephant only when "necessary arrangements for its transfer to the new site have been finalised".
Meanwhile, the forest department, which had sought approval from Ban Santoor elephant rehabilitation centre in Haryana to transfer the elephant, received confirmation from the state's chief wildlife warden on July 1 that Laxmi could be moved there.
On July 6, when a forest department team reached the site where the elephant was kept, Ali, his son and their relatives attacked them while the caretaker fled with the pachyderm and disappeared in the forests near Akshardham.
In August, the forest department wrote to chief wildlife wardens of all states asking them to alert it if they come to know about the whereabouts of the elephant.
The department had also alerted the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau as it suspected that the elephant could have been taken to Nepal.