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She’s one jumbo celebrity in this catwalk county

- Rakhi, the rescued elephant calf in Palamau, laps up all attention at lone tiger reserve; her next show on October 1

She is a big bundle of joy. She can run faster than a camera flash. She loves to trunk call guests. And, she is a giant star in the making. Meet Rakhi, the jumbo addition to Palamau Tiger Reserve’s sparse big cat count.

The adorable three-month-old female elephant calf, which was rescued from the Garu range of the reserve after lightning killed its mother on August 9, has earned the memorable name because she was found on the eve of Raksha Bandhan.

“It is a festival as close to people’s heart as we hope Rakhi would be one day. There could have been no better name than that for our new guest. The cultural connotation to her name would perhaps endear the orphaned calf to everyone who visits the reserve,” said a forest official.

His speculation is bang on target. The lone tiger abode of Jharkhand, 180km from Ranchi, which draws tourists in hordes from Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh annually, is seeing a sudden influx this month despite the fact that the reserve is closed for monsoon, the prime mating season for animals.

“This weekend, over a dozen families unexpectedly came calling to Betla (the national park of which the tiger reserve is a part) from Netarhat, 120km away, to see Rakhi. Since it was an extended holiday because of Independence Day and Janmashtami, both our tourism department guesthouses in Netarhat and Betla were full. The calf has become the talk of the town. So, they came to see her,” said Sudhakar, an employee at Van Vihar, the guesthouse in Betla.

Asif, the owner of Hotel Devjani near Van Vihar, nodded in agreement. “The national park is closed and yet there is a mad rush; all come to see the baby elephant’s antics. Palamau is a small place and news spreads like wild fire. Everyone wants to see the calf and play with her,” he said.

Unlike during initial days after rescue, when she was scared and not forthcoming, Rakhi has now learnt to play to the gallery. “She is lapping up all the attention. Every time she sees a visitor, she frantically waves her trunk, goes around in circles and plays catch me if you can with their cameras,” said her handler Maqsood. He added that Rakhi scampered so excitedly that she broke a couple of chairs recently.

Betla ranger Nathuli Singh said they would keep the calf isolated until it healed completely. “It is still an infant and has bruises sustained during rescue. It needs proper care. Hence, we are keeping her away from public eyes for now. She is doing fine at the moment and we are taking care of her following the vet’s advice. When the national park and reserve open formally from October 1, visitors will have a jumbo reason to rejoice,” he added.

Have you met Rakhi yet? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com


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