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Man makes calf pariah

Siliguri, July 18: A baby elephant washed away by a river in spate was rescued and returned to its herd but wasnt taken back, apparently because of the stink of man.

Villagers alerted forest officials this morning seeing the baby being split from elders by the Balason near Marianbarie Tea Estate.

The calf, pulled to the bank by villagers and foresters about 10km from here, would not be more than 15 days old. It can barely stand.

Foresters gave ORS (a mix of water, salt and sugar) to the dehydrated calf at the Sukna rescue centre and three vets examined it. It was weak and had bruises all over the body, divisional forest officer Sumita Ghatak said.

When the baby recovered a bit, it was taken to the herd of 50 elephants at Bamanpokhri.

It is difficult to get wild elephants accept a separated member once they get the whiff of human interference, said Ghatak.

The foresters covered the calf in dung and left it near the herd. But the ploy failed.

A couple of tuskers came close and looked at the calf, which kept moaning, as if pleading them to take it back, a forest officer said. But they showed no interest and the calf got exhausted. We gave the ORS, put some more dung and left it near the herd again.

This time, another tusker examined the calf and, as if on a signal, the entire herd just left the baby and trudged away.

The repeated attempts to push the animal back and the final rejection, which took up over six hours, made it clear that the herd would not accept the calf, the officer said.

The baby was sent to the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, about 140km away, escorted by a veterinary surgeon.

It would be kept at the pilkahana where trained elephants are housed.

There are quite a few lactating mother elephants in Jaldapara. But the vet was not sure if the baby would survive. It may refuse to feed off her.

Forest minister Ananta Roy said: Well take utmost care of the calf.

There was more bad news for foresters, though. A leopard cub rescued from a Naxalbari tea estate died at Sukna. It was anaemic and hardly ate, Ghatak said.

Rain forecast

North Bengal was relatively dry today, but heavy rain has been forecast.

Employees at the NHPCs Teesta Low Dam Project at Kalijhora, 25km from here, began looking for machinery washed away by the raging Teesta.

Traffic movement on NH55 connecting Siliguri with Darjeeling has resumed.

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