| Foresters and vets feed the calf at Sukna. A Telegraph picture
Siliguri, July 18: Foresters and villagers today rescued a 15-day-old elephant calf from the swollen Balason River near the Marianbarie tea estate. However, two attempts to return the male calf to its herd failed, probably because the other elephants were warned off by the smell of humans still clinging to it.
This morning, around 6.30, the manager of the Marianbarie, saw a herd of 50 elephants near the plantation, located next to the Bamanpokhri forest, 10km from here. “I immediately informed forest officials,” said Alok Jakhmola, the manager.
When the foresters from the Bamanpokhri range arrived to keep a watch on the herd, some residents told them that a calf had been washed away in the Balason river flowing past the garden.
The calf was soon located in the river and the residents and foresters rescued it with the help of ropes and bamboo.
Later, at the Sukna rescue centre, foresters administered saline water to the calf, which was barely able to stand. Three vets were also brought to examine it. “It was weak and bruised. When it recovered a bit, we took it back to Bamanpokhri to return it to the herd,” said Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer (wildlife-1). The herd had moved barely a kilometre in the meantime.
“Once they get the whiff of human interference, it is difficult to get wild elephants to accept a separated member,” Ghatak said. So at Bamanpokhri, the foresters covered the calf in elephant dung and left it near the herd.
The ploy, however, failed. “A couple of tuskers came and watched the calf closely, even as it kept moaning loudly, as if asking them to take it back,” the forest officer said. “But they showed no interest and the calf got exhausted. We had no option but to feed it saline water and leave it near the herd again.”
This time, another tusker came and examined the calf and, as if on a signal, the entire herd just left the baby and trudged away, said Ghatak.
“All this took up over six hours and made it clear that the herd would not accept the calf,” the forest officer said. “We brought it back and deported it to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, escorted by a veterinary surgeon.”
Foresters said the calf would stay at the pilkhana where trained elephants are kept. “We have a few lactating elephants there who can feed the calf,” one of them said.
There was more bad news for foresters as a leopard cub rescued from a Naxalbari tea estate recently died at Sukna last night.
Bengal forest minister Ananta Roy today went to Sukna to take stock of the situation. “We will take utmost care of the calf and try to rear it at Jaldapara,” he said.