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Congrats! It’s a Joiraj

Jorhat, Jan. 9: The sun, that had set over Kaziranga National Park yesterday on a sad note, rose this morning to fresh cheer and a reinforced belief in reincarnation.

A male calf was born at the national park around 5 this morning to Phulmai, one of the 56-strong fleet of domestic elephants that perform various chores like ferrying tourists and chasing poachers at the world heritage site with equal ease.

The birth of the calf came hours after the tribe lost its oldest and most loved member yesterday.

“We believe that the calf is a reincarnation of Joiraj, who left us yesterday after serving the park for long,” divisional forest officer of Kaziranga S.K. Seal Sarma told The Telegraph today.

The park authorities are contemplating naming the calf Joiraj.

Joiraj, 72, was considered to be one of the prized possessions of Kaziranga, and had led many anti-poaching drives and ferried tourists, till he retired from service in 2009.

“Joiraj was experienced in anti-poaching drives and used to lead the operations inside Kaziranga. Despite his huge size and long, majestic tusks, he was mild natured, truly a gentle giant,” the official said.

He said Joiraj (elephant number 25) was also a hot favourite among the tourists, probably because of its huge size and had taken renowned personalities on safaris inside the park.

“Tourists always preferred him, probably because of his size, as they felt safe on top of him. He had ferried many a VVIP, including a few ambassadors of various countries who had visited the national park,” the official said.

Joiraj, who was brought to Kaziranga in 1967 at the age of four, also used to lead the rallies taken out during the Elephant Festival, held in the park every two years.

Michael Palin, an English travel writer, had described his interaction with Joiraj as one of the greatest experiences of his life. “I have never heard an elephant rumble with pleasure before,” Michael had said once, while giving Joiraj a bath at Kaziranga in 2011.

Joiraj was the first domestic elephant of the national park to die this year. Last year, four elephants — Gautam, Ratan, Babu and Gabbar — had passed away. While two died of wounds suffered in infighting, the others died of natural causes.

Seal Sarma said Joiraj was suffering from old-age ailments for the past few months.

“Although we provided all possible treatment, he never recovered. He died a peaceful death,” the official said. He said Joiraj, who was rested after his retirement, passed away in the Mihimukh area of the park.

Speaking about the newborn, Anjan Talukdar, a veterinarian at the Centre for Wildlife Conservation and Rehabilitation near the national park, said “both the mother and the calf are doing fine.”

Phulmai (elephant number 102) joined the Kaziranga fleet in 1997, at the tender age of three months, when she was rescued from the wild. This is her first calf.