Born after train hit mother, baby elephant dies in Assam zoo | india | Hindustan Times
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Born after train hit mother, baby elephant dies in Assam zoo

A speeding goods train ejected him from his mother's womb prematurely on February 28. Less than a month later - and 10 days after his mother was prescribed euthanasia - the baby elephant died of enteritis.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2010 19:31 IST
Rahul Karmakar

A speeding goods train ejected him from his mother's womb prematurely on February 28. Less than a month later - and 10 days after his mother was prescribed euthanasia - the baby elephant died of enteritis.

Wildlife enthusiasts had been following the condition of the 'nameless' male calf on Facebook and Twitter. Its death in the Assam State Zoo on Wednesday night made them zero in on Baby Tragedy.

"Dame Daphne Sheldrick of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya has suggested this name to possibly highlight the plight of elephants in India vis-à-vis killer railway tracks," said Azam Siddiqui, master trainer in animal welfare.

The elephant calf was born seconds after a goods train hit two female elephants on a track skirting the Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary on the western fringes of Assam's capital. Herds of elephants come down regularly from the adjoining Rani Reserve Forest - on the other side of the track - to bathe and feed on aquatic plants in Deepor Beel, a wetland.

One of the elephants died on the spot. The impact made the other deliver beside the track before limping back into the forest. The incident happened around 3 am, almost six hours after Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and forest officials warned Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) authorities about the movement of a herd.

NFR, WTI and Assam Forest Department got together in 2008 to start a coordination project to "mitigate elephant mortality due to train hits in Assam". It entailed joint patrolling on 16 elephant corridors across the State and educating locomotive drivers.


"There's hardly any cooperation from NFR, and warnings are not heeded, as was the case on February 28," said a WTI coordinator. NFR's running staff put the onus on higher officials, claiming they are not told how to go about the 'mitigation business'.

Zoo DFO Narayan Mahanta said the calf was barely surviving when it was brought to the zoo hours after the train-hit. "We tried our best to ensure its survival, and its vulnerability was possibly due to the impact of the train-hit," he said.

While the baby was battling death in the zoo veterinary unit, its mother collapsed near Sattargaon, a village close to Assam's border with Meghalaya. "The elephant was in great pain when the villagers reported her on March 10. We tried to unite mother with calf but on March 14, forest officials decided she was beyond hope and euthanized her," Siddiqui told Hindustan Times.