Earlier this month, four-year old Aditya fell into a marsh at night. Deserted by his relatives and his cries for help going unheard, it was morning by the time he was rescued. Now he is so traumatised, he has become a recluse, shunning food and drink. Doctors say he is suffering from emotional trauma and muscle fatigue.
No, this is no human toddler we are talking about but an elephant calf at Maharashtra's only camp for pachyderms at Kamlapur in Gadchiroli, where elephants are kept in semi-captivity.
On June 10 night, Aditya, who had been released into the forest with his herd, fell into a ditch. It was morning before forest department staff were alerted by some fishermen.
“We had to extricate him carefully. Our staff managed to create an incline in the ditch, for him to come out,” said S S Pawar, deputy divisional forest officer.
Since then, Aditya has been withdrawn. Trauma, exhaustion and muscle strain have rendered him unable to use his trunk for eating and he has to be fed. At times, he goes off his feed, causing his caregivers to panic.
The elephant camp, established around 50 years ago in Sironcha taluka, has a total of 10 elephants, including matriarch Basanti, and alpha male Ajit. Aditya was born here in 2016 to Ajit and Mangala. The pachyderms are kept at the camp between 8am and 4pm and later released into the wild.
“The question is, why did the herd give up? Elephants are sensitive and social animals. Perhaps they tried to rescue him and failed, and being intelligent animals, realised that humans would do the needful,” Pawar added.
Aditya was given saline and medicines to overcome weakness. He was also coated with mud and sprayed with repellent to keep flies away for some quality rest and sleep. Aditya is being fed his favourite food—bananas and tender bamboo leaves, apart from rice, jaggery and oil. This is being done to ensure he returns to normal.
“We have contacted some experts on elephants and veterinarians who have treated him earlier. They said he is suffering from psychological trauma, and have asked us to continue with the treatment,” explained Pawar.
“The other elephants have not tried hard to communicate with him or include him in their midst… we are trying to bring him back to normal by releasing him back in the herd. Aditya has walked a couple of kilometres with them,” he said, adding that however, smaller elephants in the group, like two-year old Saee and Arjun,3, are playing with him.
Aditya is luckier than the three elephants in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, which died earlier this month. Carcasses of three female wild elephants were found in the jungles of Balrampur and Surajpur district of the state between June 9 and 11. According to forest officials one of the elephants died of cardiac issues, the other of poisoning while the third one was battling an infection.