Chhattisgarh: Separated from mom, baby jumbo lies injured, traumatized
The Times of India
September 21, 2022
RAIPUR: A month-old baby elephant that got separated from its herd and then
disowned was turned into a freak show by villagers in the last few days
until it was brought under the ‘care’ of the forest department in Jashpur
Wildlife activists say the calf is not being treated well here, either.
Videos have emerged showing the traumatized calf being mistreated by
villagers at a time when the forest department was claiming it had been
reunited with its herd.
The little giant now has several injuries that weren’t there earlier — some
particularly gruesome lacerations on its back, others on its trunk,
umbilical cord region and around its testicles, say sources.
Wildlife activists have raised concerns over its health and criticized the
way the calf is being treated. This baby jumbo — named ‘Vasundhara’ by
locals — got separated from its herd in Samadma village of Tapkara region,
close to the trijunction of Chhattisgarh-Odisha-Jharkhand borders, while
crossing the Ib river, say forest officials.
Initial efforts to reunite it with its herd were announced to be successful
but the calf evidently wasn’t accepted by other elephants as it was seen
staggering about alone in human habitats three days ago.
Videos show villagers harassing the calf, manhandling it and treating it
like a plaything. Forest staff took it under their care and it is now at
Lavakera rest house (around 20km from Samadma), where it is being treated
by a veterinarian, said officials.
Sources say the herd is being tracked but foresters couldn’t reunite
‘Vasundara’ with the herd.Foresters say the calf was injured while climbing
a bridge, but wildlife activists allege that it was poorly handled and
allowed to be touched by everyone who approached it.
Jashpur DFO Jitendra Upadhyay didn’t respond to attempts to get forest
department’s stand on allegations. Forest minister Mohd Akbar has ordered
senior forest officials, including the Jashpur DFO, to ensure that the calf
is reunited with its mother and the herd.
Activist Nitin Singhvi raised concerns over the safety of the elephant calf
and alleged that the forest department doesn’t seem to be trying to reunite
it with the herd. It was surrounded by many people, which might have left
it terrified and traumatized, he said.
“If the calf carries human odour (because of the unwelcome contact with
villagers), its mother will never accept it back in the herd. Possibly,
this is why the calf couldn’t be reunited again. The pictures in
circulation show that none of those touching the calf is wearing gloves.
The calf was made to sleep on a concrete floor while the ground should be
of mud or grass. Moreover, the calf came under observation of vets a few
days after it was found,” Singhvi said.
The way the calf was being fed milk through a hole in a plastic bag was
extremely unhygienic, he pointed out, adding that he would readily donate
money for milk bottles.
NGOs and wildlife experts are extending a helping hand to the forest
department in taking care of Vasundhara and reuniting it with the herd.
Concerned over the calf’s emotional state, Satyendra Sahu from an NGO,
said: “In times like these, everyone should join in, or else the calf will
be separated from its mother forever and it would be like 60-years of
imprisonment and trauma.”
He said the baby may have got separated from the herd because of three
reasons — while crossing a river, the herd may have excluded it due to an
illness or that it lost its mother and ended up near the village. The third
option doesn’t seem very likely, he said.
Sahu said that wildlife activists were seeking permission to fly drones
themselves and track down the herd of 17 elephants which had been seen
within 15km of Samadma village. It’s believed the herd came from Odisha and
is travelling towards or is already in Jharkhand (both borders are barely