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First-hand Account: CWRC MVS Team Successfully Treats Wild Tusker in Nagaon
Amguri Village, Nagaon District, Assam, October 20, 2016: A wild tusker was treated for suspected food poisoning – either from primary or secondary sources – by a Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) unit of the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC; the wildlife rescue, treatment and rehabilitation facility run by IFAW-WTI and the Assam Forest Department near Kaziranga National Park) yesterday afternoon.

IFAW-WT I veterinarian Dr Samshul Ali, MVS team members and forest department officials conduct an on-site observation of the tusker’s condition

The following is a first-hand account of the incident by Dr Samshul Ali, the attending MVS veterinarian:

At 10.35am on October 19, I received a call from the Forest Range Officer (FRO) of Chapanala regarding a wild tusker that had collapsed and had been unable to stand up for over 20 hours. The tusker, the FRO said, was lying in a small water body in a paddy field in the village of Amguri, Nagaon.

I got my MVS team together and we proceeded to the spot immediately. On the way I discussed the animal’s condition with the Conservator of Forests (Northern Assam Circle, Tezpur) Mr P Sivakumar, and the Divisional Forest Officer (Nagaon Territorial Division) Ms Deepika Chaudhary, who were present at the site. From the photographs sent to me by Mr Sivakumar, I surmised that the tusker may have eaten something that had laid him low.

The tusker made a rapid recovery, rising to its feet and rushing off towards the forest to everyone’s surprise

Getting from CWRC to Nagoan was not easy that day; the entire state was affected by a 36-hour ‘Assam Bandh’ called by a group of socio-political organisations. Repeated blockades by protesters on NH 37 had resulted in traffic disruptions that would have made the going difficult, and potentially dangerous. Our MVS units have been attacked by mobs in such situations previously, so we were especially thankful to Mr Suvashish Das, the Divisional Forest Officer (Eastern Assam Wildlife Division) of Kaziranga, for providing us with a security escort through bandh-affected areas!

It took us two hours to reach Amguri from Kaziranga. A large crowd of villagers had gathered near the spot where the tusker had collapsed. Having observed the tusker, I discussed his condition with the forest department officials. The struggling elephant clearly exhibited symptoms that suggested a case of food poisoning – whether from primary or secondary sources it was, of course, impossible to tell.

A local veterinarian had provided some supportive medication but the tusker’s condition had not changed. I provided specialised medication to counteract the symptoms of poisoning, and waited.

What happened next took us all by surprise. As we were waiting for some sign that the medication had taken effect, the tusker suddenly rose from the muddy surface and in an instant, rushed into the forest scattering the crowd around him.

Our MVS team members and forest staff kept an eye on the elephant till it disappeared deep into the forest. Later, two mahouts with ‘kumki’ elephants (trained captive elephants) were placed in the area to monitor its health and wellbeing overnight.

The elephant can be seen moving into the Chapanal Reserve Forest. Its condition is being monitored by frontline forest staff.

Managing agitated crowds is one of the most important factors in such situations, not only for the safety of the wild animal but also that of the people working to save it. In this particular case our MVS team is thankful to Ms Deepika Chaudhary, DFO, Nagaon Territorial Division, wildlife volunteers Smarajit Ojah and Saurabh Borkataki, the forest staff of Salna, the Nagaon civil administration, and the villagers of Amguri, for their wholehearted support in saving the elephant in distress.

A day after the tusker made his sudden recovery and rushed into the forest, officials of the Nagaon Territorial Division have confirmed that he has been seen moving around the Chapanala Reserve Forest. His condition is being monitored by frontline staff.
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