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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Delhi’s elephant Lakshmi to finally get a home

The national capital does not have any infrastructure in place for housing rescued animals or for providing them medical care and has so far been relying on non-government organisations to take care of them.

delhi Updated: Apr 14, 2019 08:31 IST
Vatsala Shrangi
Vatsala Shrangi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lakshmi, one of Delhi’s two remaining elephants, will finally have a home in the wild.
Lakshmi, one of Delhi’s two remaining elephants, will finally have a home in the wild.(HT File Photo)
         

Lakshmi, one of Delhi’s two remaining elephants, will finally have a home in the wild. She will be shifted to the first wildlife rescue-cum-rehabilitation centre, which will be developed by the Delhi government’s forest department, at the Asola wildlife sanctuary in South Delhi to house injured or sick animals.

The national capital does not have any infrastructure in place for housing rescued animals or for providing them medical care and has so far been relying on non-government organisations to take care of them.

Forty-one-year-old Lakshmi was diagnosed with herpes, a zoonotic viral disease, in February 2018. She will soon be shifted to a new enclosure that will be built for her. Four of the city’s six elephants have found new homes in Gujarat and Rajasthan, but Lakshmi was left behind because of the disease. The other remaining elephant, Moti, may soon be moved to Haryana, talks for which are underway with the state forest department

Lakshmi will be a permanent resident of the rehabilitation centre, which will only provide temporary accommodation and care to other animals that will be released in the wild, officials in the Delhi government’s forest department said.

Herpes is infectious and can be transmitted to other species,the reason why she found no takers, the officials said on condition of anonymity. “We had written to several states asking them to take the two elephants. In case of Lakshmi, who is suffering from the disease, we could not find any takers,” a senior official said.

“We have asked the deputy conservator of forest (south) to prepare a plan for rehabilitation of the elephant, as it had to be seized. An estimate has to be prepared for constructing an enclosure for her. The elephant will be kept and treated there permanently. For other animals, it will serve as a temporary home,” the official said.

Upto five enclosures will be built in a stretch of about 2 acres in the Asola sanctuary for temporarily housing injured or sickly animals.

“A number of wild animals such as neelgai and deer are rescued from urban areas throughout the year. The centre will provide them immediate medical care. We are also making a proposal for hiring a veterinarian and staff on a contract basis who will be available at the sanctuary for looking after the rescued animals,” the official said.

The department may write to the Central Zoo Authority seeking suggestions on setting up the rescue centre.

Moti didn’t have any takers after the Delhi government’s forest department had issued a seizure notice to the elephant’s owners in the city in August last year.

Elephants had to be shifted out of Delhi because the city does not provide a natural habitat to house these animals. In 2016, the Delhi high court had asked the forest department to “seize” these animals and rehabilitate them.

“Having a rehabilitation facility for wildlife animals could be a better arrangement for animals in distress. However, in case of elephants, which are the biggest nomadic animals, an enclosure is not enough,” said Fayaz Khudsar, scientist in-charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park. “But in this case, it will save the animals from commercial exploitation. Also, the animals rescued will be given proper food and healthcare, which will ensure their survival.”

First Published: Apr 14, 2019 07:32 IST