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Orphaned baby elephant wails on tiger park lap

- Palamau reserve has no in-house vet, wildlife hospital locked for three years

Ranchi, Aug. 12: A national park can’t seem to deal with an orphaned elephant calf, much less mother it.

Manpower-starved Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) is panicky about what to do with a days-old elephant calf — a schedule I animal under Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 — that was rescued by villages under Garu range on Monday.

Admitting that the PTR had no vet at the moment and the wildlife hospital was under lock and key for the past three years, a forest official said: “The elephant calf can’t walk properly. Most importantly, we don’t know what to feed it and in what quantity. We have now shifted it from Garu to Betla office in the evening.”

The elephant calf got separated from the herd after lightning had killed its mother on August 9. Villagers had found the carcass of the mother elephant under a tree and the calf close by on Sunday, the forester added.

Though PTR director S.E.H. Kazmi has suggested domesticating the baby elephant, given the lack of expert help and the elephant’s age, it is a risky proposition, say foresters on the field.

Prodded about the lack of expert help, a forester said that the state had been planning to set up an elephant rehabilitation centre in Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary near Jamshedpur. Nothing came of the plan that was mooted in 2010.

“A state that has wildlife reserves must have a rehab centre for rescued animals who are injured or orphaned. Its only when there is a crisis like this that people remember the need for these basic facilities,” he said.

Wildlife authorities know that forcing an unknown elephant herd to accept an orphaned calf might prove to be lethal. “Elephants are very emotional. Its own herd would have raised it properly but unfortunately it got separated from its herd and there is no way to trace it now,” a forester said.

The easiest way out, a forester sarcastically said, was sending the animal to Birsa Munda Biological Park at Ormanjhi in Ranchi. “People pass the buck, we pass the elephant. The zoo has an expert and proper facilities for 24/7 care. The calf should be sent there immediately,” he said.

Principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) D.K. Srivastava said they would soon take a call. “I am sending a two-member vet team to PTR tomorrow,” he told The Telegraph. “Depending upon their opinion, we will take a call. It is true that an elephant calf needs special care to survive. The suggestion of shifting it to zoo can be considered. Let me take details from PTR so that we can take a decision at the soonest,” he said.

The question is how soon is “soonest”. After nearly a fortnight, the wildlife reserve is still waiting for a breakthrough in the murder of 50-year-old tusker Ganesh.


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