Laxmi and Anarkali (Left)
Laxmi and Anarkali (Left)

After the death of her elephant friend and companion of over 25 years Laxmi, female elephant Anarkali becomes the lone and last Elephant at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyaan & Zoo (Byculla). Byculla zoo’s oldest animal, female elephant Laxmi (64), died last week due to old age complications and a chronic heart failure, said Zoo officials.

According to zoo officials, Laxmi, while sitting in its captivity area, failed to stand up last Thursday. A crane was called in but even after several attempts, it struggled to stand up and got injured in the leg. After some time, it stopped moving.
Following the demise of her companion Laxmi, 54-year-old Anarkali mourned and did not eat food for three days according to zoo authorities.

"Yes, first two days she did not eat. On the third day, she did respond but ate very less. We were already taking extra care of the elephants, as they are already in their old age. While Laxmi had lost her molars, the biggest of all teeth that help the animal chew food and grind it a few years back. Anarkali too is left with the last set of molars. We are giving her soft food," said Dr. Sanjay Tripathi, Director of Byculla Zoo.
An elephant gets six sets of molars during its lifespan. Once these pachyderms lose their last set of molars, their health deteriorates as they lose the ability to chew and digest food. They usually die during this phase of their lives.
Tripathi added, "Usually elephants in captivity have a life span of 62 to 65 years. Laxmi will be missed as it was the oldest animal in the zoo." Laxmi was buried in the zoo premises.
Laxmi was one of the main attractions of Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo in Byculla. Both Laxmi and Anarkali were brought to the Byculla zoo after being rescued from a circus in 1970's, then till 1992 they were used for joyrides in the zoo but this practice was discontinued following several protests. At that time there were four elephants at Byculla Zoo, Three female elephants -- Radha, Laxmi, Anarkali, and a male elephant. The male elephant was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram after his three years stay at the Byculla zoo as he started to attack the three female elephants.
In 2005, Radha died of TB, leaving Laxmi and Anarkali, the two formed a very strong bond according to zoo officials. In March 2010, Laxmi crushed a trespasser to death. Following which there were protests to shift the two animals in the wild from the Byculla zoo.
However, a committee set up to review the shifting stated that the two animals were too old to be shifted in the forest especially since they have lived all of their lives in captivity.
Hence Laxmi and Anarkali continued to be together in their enclosure at Byculla zoo until Laxmi's death last week.

The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has already banned further intake of elephants in Zoos, Hence this makes Anarkali, the lone and the last elephant at the Byculla Zoo, popularly known as Rani Baugh among Mumbaikars.

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