An elephant calf was recently rescued and reunited with its natal herd after it had fallen into a ditch in the Numaligarh Tea Estate in Golaghat district of Assam. Prompt action by the Forest Department officials, and the local people saved the month-old calf from being displaced.
The incident occurred last week when the herd of 38 elephants was passing through the tea estate. On discovering the calf stuck in the ditch, Assistant Manager of Numaligarh Tea Estate, Rajib Hazarika, immediately informed the local Forest Beat Office, which then alerted the team members of IFAW-WTI at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC).
Recalling the events of the day, Hazarika said,
“I was monitoring the plucking in the tea garden when I suddenly heard two elephants shouting. I soon discovered that an elephant calf was stuck in the drain near section 9 of our garden, while a large herd was waiting at a distance.”
A rescue team, led by Pratap Saika, the Numaligarh Beat Officer under Golaghat Territorial Division, immediately rushed to the spot.
“To disperse the herd, we used whistles, fire crackers, and even fired a round in the air”, informed Saika.
As soon as they were able to move the herd from the site, the team lifted the calf out of the drain, and examined it for injuries. On finding that the calf was not hurt, they decided to leave it within sight of the waiting herd, and continued to monitor the action of the herd.
In a similar situation where a wild animal is involved and members of its family are present nearby, it is best for humans to interfere the least and only assist when there is no other way of rescuing or saving the life of an animal.
The rescuers soon observed, that the calf was approached by its mother and a few other elephants. After sniffing the calf, reportedly to reassure it, the adult elephants returned to the herd. The entire herd then proceeded towards the calf, and embraced it back into the herd.
“Elephants pass through our garden regularly, and we consider this as normal as our garden is located next to a reserve forest. There is a standby instruction in the garden to record any kind of elephant movement, and not to disturb them unless they charge”, informed Vikas Joshi, the General Manager of Jorehaut Tea Limited.
Joshi was personally present at the location to assist the rescue team. He is a passionate naturalist, and has reportedly assisted in rescuing other elephant calves in the past.
The Deputy Director of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and in-charge of CWRC, Dr. Rathin Barman, congratulated the team for the successful rescue, and said,
“Many elephant calves are displaced unnecessarily, and this is one of those rare instances when this was effectively avoided by the prompt action of the authorities and people present there.”
The CWRC believes in reunification of young animals with their mothers or groups, and recommends hand-rearing and long term rehabilitation only when the reunification attempts fail.
Since its inception, the CWRC rescue team has assisted the Forest Department in successfully reuniting 14 elephant calves with their herds, while seven have been hand-reared and released into the wild. At present, the CWRC is hand-rearing six elephant calves.
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