Goaltore (West Midnapore), Aug. 27: The elephant fidgeted, all senses tuned to the scene by the well — about 40 feet away — from which her six-month-old calf was being hauled out, but an eye always on the huge crowd watching the spectacle. Her nervousness was clear from the few mock charges she made, scattering the people crowding the well.
As soon as her calf was pulled out around 3 pm — by forest department staff with help from the police and local villagers — after 15 terrifying hours in the nine-feet abyss, the elephant came forward with a throaty trumpet to greet her baby bounding to her with tear-streaked eyes. They immediately joined four other members of the herd waiting at a distance and disappeared into the jungle.
It marked the end of frenetic activity that began early in the morning and drew a 5,000-strong crowd, including some journalists, by the well in Kadamdiha village, about 190 km from Calcutta, on the edge of the forests of the Goaltore range.
Ashis Mondol, a youth who worked tirelessly with the forest staff to rescue the calf, said as soon as the animal fell into the well this morning, the herd began trumpeting loudly and making a commotion.
“When we rushed out, we saw the adult animals standing around the well. It was plain that one of them had fallen into the well. We immediately informed the police,” he said. As soon as word went out that an elephant was trapped in a well, people began trickling in from villages nearby.
“Yesterday morning a herd of about a dozen elephants had come towards our village and we had driven them away. They were driven back by the villagers in the Garbeta area,” said Gautam Mondol, on whose land the well was.
When the herd was chased by the villagers, it split into two groups and six of the elephants, along with the calf, returned to Kadamdiha. He suspected that the calf fell when the pachyderms, emerging from the forest in the wee hours of this morning, tried to cross into the paddy fields.
Forest ranger Biswanath Bhandari, who oversaw the rescue, said people came forward to help forest guards widen the mouth of the well. The plan was to lay a slope down to the bottom and pull up the traumatised calf slowly.
“We had to chase the other four elephants towards the forest as the tusker was making threatening charges at us and the villagers, whom the police and our guards had a trying time controlling,” he added.
West Midnapore police superintendent K.C. Meena said as soon as he heard of the incident he despatched an additional force to the area. The operation was uneventful, barring the mock charges and jostling by the huge crowd.