Daring Mother and Calf Elephant Rescue in India

This report and dramatic images were submitted from the International Fund for Animal Welfare - Wildlife Trust of India’s field communications officer Sashanka Barbaruah in Assam (Northeast, India):

UPDATED 5.5.11: Read the good news about the recovery of the newborn calf here.

An elephant calf who had fallen into a cave and was trapped being rescued by IFAW-WTI staff.

A newborn male elephant calf trapped in between rocks with its mother was rescued yesterday evening by the Central Assam Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) and the Karbi Anglong MVS Team at Ouguri Range, around 60 kms east of Guwahati.

According to reports the calf fell down from a hill and got trapped in between rocks. People are speculating that the mother might have come to rescue her newborn, sneaked into the rocks and got trapped.

The incident might have taken place on Wednesday (April 27th). Local bamboo cutters witnessed the elephant with its calf and reported the Ouguri Range Office about the incident on Thursday.

They informed IFAW-WTI’s Dr. Anthony Nokso Phangcho on Friday night and the rescue team to the site on Saturday afternoon. Upon reaching the site we saw Forest Department people with local villagers were breaking rocks to free the mother elephant.

A picture of the injured and trapped calf.

The new born was badly injured and was unable to stand up. It had bruises in its back, head and legs. The rescue team chalked out a plan to rescue the mother and the calf.  The plan was to break rocks and make a safe passage to the mother so that it can climb up the rocks.

Now the plan was to rescue the newborn first as it was badly hurt. Moreover it would create some free space in the area and it will be convenient for the rock breakers in clearing the area and free the mother.

IFAW-WTI’s Dr Abhijit Bhawal, Dr Bhaskar Choudhury and Dr Anthony Nokso Phangcho took active part in preparing a plan to rescue the newborn. Now, the plan was to get into a cave which connects to the area where the elephants were trapped, and pull the new born with the help of six people. The plan worked when Abhijit led the team to get inside the cave and reached the calf. It was very difficult to pull out the calf as the cave was very narrow and there was barely any light.

Assam Forest Department staff with the help of villagers pulled the calf with the help of a sling, while Dr Abhijit along with five other people pushed it from behind. After pulling out the calf through the cave, it was carried to the foothill through a steep hill with the help of a stretcher. Then it was transported further to the range office (five kms away) where the newborn was given a drip of 2 litres of Dextrose along with B complex vitamin antibiotic and steroid.

Presently the calf is undergoing medication and the vets are observing the health of the new born  in the premises of the Ouguri Range Office and kept under a sling support. Meanwhile, a team of local villagers and Forest Department staff are trying to save the mother.

They have resumed the work of rock breaking and earth filling in the area this morning (May 1st).   I’ll update you all with more pics and quotes from the Forest Department people soon.

UPDATE FROM WTI: Some sad news, the mother elephant succumbed to her injuries late evening yesterday.

However, the calf has been moved to our centre. His condition is not very good either as he has sustained some severe injuries, in his legs and head too. He is under intensive care.

-- AW - We'll keep updating the post as we get more information.

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