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Crane to put jumbo on feet

Alipurduar, July 12: A crane was pressed into service today to help an elephant injured in the leg stand on its feet.

Shakuntala, a trained forest department elephant at the Jaldapara sanctuary, had a swelling on its hind left leg and often limped. On Friday, forest employees saw one of its front legs, too, had swollen. Shakuntala fell that night and could not stand up.

Efforts to make Shakuntala stand with a nudge here and a poke there from other pet elephants proved futile yesterday.

“Elephants should not be allowed to sit for long because their lungs may collapse from their own weight. So we had to make Shakuntala stand somehow. Then we hit upon the idea of the crane,” said Proloy Mandal, a vet.

The crane was hired from Hasimara, 20km away. As it pulled the jumbo up, cushions were placed under its belly so that it did not collapse.

Through the night, the three-tonne elephant was kept in the same position — its body resting on the mattresses. Thirty bottles of saline, calcium and vitamins were injected between 6pm yesterday and seven this morning.

After the crane was detached, the elephant could stand on its own. Today, it also munched some grass, though with only a fraction of its earlier vigour.

Foresters were not sure about what caused the swelling.

Omprakash, the divisional forest officer, said: “Shakuntala seems to have responded to the treatment. We rarely use cranes, but we have been successful this time.”

For now, the foresters at Jaldapara are delighted the animal that often left them worried by fleeing into the forest can stand without help.

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