Behali Reserve Forest, Assam, November 25, 2017: A wounded male elephant calf, approximately four to five years old, was recently provided in situ treatment by the Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) team based at IFAW-WTI’s Centre for Bear Rehabilitation and Conservation (CBRC), Seijosa, working in concert with the Assam Forest Department.
The calf was seen with its mother near Behali Reserve Forest under the Biswanath Chariali Forest Division on November 22. When frontline forest staff noticed that it was wounded, the MVS unit at CBRC was informed. A team comprising MVS veterinarian Dr Rinku Gohain and animal keeper Birkha Bahadur Biswakarma rushed to the spot, meeting up with forest department personnel led by Assistant Conservator of Forests Biswajyoti Das.
The calf, which was alone at the time, had a large, old wound on its right foreleg and was limping. Forest staff reported that the mother would habitually come to it in the evening, stay with it overnight and leave in the early morning. Since both the time of day and the specific place where the calf was found were not suitable to provide it treatment, the MVS team decided to return early the next morning. By this time the calf had moved to a more suitable place.
A kumki (captive, trained) elephant was brought to the scene as a safeguard in case the mother returned before the procedure was complete. The calf was sedated to a lateral recumbency and operated upon. Maggots were extracted from the wound and a broken piece of bone (around 10 centimetres long) was removed, along with smaller bone fragments. The wound was dressed and the requisite medication was provided, including painkillers and fluids for rehydration.
It is surmised that the calf had fallen from a height and the larger bone fragment had pierced the skin; this later became a maggoted wound, which the bone fragment prevented from healing. With the fragment having been removed and supportive treatment given, the wound is expected to heal in time.
The team observed the calf till it was fully alert, moving away as darkness fell and the mother’s approach was anticipated. Frontline forest personnel were posted at the spot to keep watch; they reported that the calf had followed its mother into the wilderness the next morning.
The MVS team is thankful to the local village headman and other members of the community, as well as forest staff who assisted during the entire rescue and treatment operation.