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Expert tips for jumbo care at Sonepur fair

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) will organise the annual health check-up camp at Sonepur cattle fair, starting Tuesday, to ensure welfare of elephants.

Besides the elephants’ health, the WTI officials would advise mahouts and animal owners about scientific husbandry and management practices during the fair, which would continue till December 10. The New Delhi-based non-profit nature and animal conservation organisation has been conducting special health camps for elephants at Sonepur Mela since 2001 as part of its captive elephant care project.

“Sonepur Mela is not only the largest cattle fair in Asia but is also the largest market for elephants in India. However, it was observed that no attention was paid to their health facilities at the fair. On the lines of our mandate of conservation of wild animals, we began health camps for all participating elephants,” WTI manager Samir Kumar Sinha said on Monday.

About the health check-up programme, which will start on Tuesday, he said: “The elephants are assessed for body condition, age and presence of wounds and abscesses. We examine their footpads for evidence of fissures and wearing. Toenails in both fore and hind limbs are also examined for crack marks. Their eyes are examined for evidence of blindness or corneal opacity. The height of each elephant is measured with a bamboo pole and a measuring tape. All clinical and non-clinical data are recorded in a standard format for incorporating the figures in a national database on captive elephants.”

Dr Prashant Deshmukh, the assistant veterinary surgeon of the WTI supervising this year’s elephant health camp at the fair, said: “There will be workshops for mahouts and elephant owners to make them aware about the best practices in elephant husbandry.”

The fair is held for 21 days starting Kartik Purnima at the confluence of the Ganga and the Gandak at Sonepur, around 25km north of Patna. The origin of the fair can be traced to the era of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

History has it that Chandragupta used to buy elephants and horses across the Ganga from Patliputra (Patna of ancient time).


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