A pall of gloom engulfed the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve near here on Friday following the unexpected death of an elephant calf.

Around the third week of July a new-born male elephant calf had been rescued from a gorge inside the Tiger Hill Reserve forest near Coonoor.

The calf had fallen into a gorge while moving with its mother. The mother had fallen from a rock and died while trying to rescue the fortnight-old calf. Following this, the calf had been handed over to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

The Field Director of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve Rajiv K. Srivastava had christened the calf Rana Pratap and had entrusted it to a tribal mahout Chandran and his wife Shantha.

Mr. Srivastava told The Hindu that from the time the calf reached Mudumalai it had endeared itself to the local people. It had also become a major tourist attraction and was particularly fond of playing football.

Mr. Srivastava said till Wednesday, the calf was in good spirits and had played with the local children, but fell very ill with a high temperature on Thursday.

Since the Mudumalai veterinarian was out of the country, the services of the wildlife veterinarian, Anil Zachariah, from neighbouring Wynaad, had been requisitioned. He arrived during the early hours of Friday and tried his best to bring the temperature down. However the calf’s condition steadily deteriorated and it died in the morning.

Mr.Srivastava said the herpes virus was suspected to be the cause of death and adequate precautionary measures have been taken at the elephant camp.

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