Herd, frightened by funeral drums, abandons young one at Mettupalayam

A team of 50 forest officials has been battling hard since Monday morning to reunite a new born female elephant calf with its mother in the Odanthurai Reserve Forest area at Mettuppalayam, Coimbatore.

Quoting villagers, the officials said a herd of seven elephants had been wandering along the reserve forest border since Sunday night. Around 5.30 a.m. on Monday, the villagers heard the trumpeting of an elephant.

At dawn, they noticed the calf abandoned at the border. The herd may have been frightened by the beating of drums at a funeral, and moved into the jungle, forest officials said.

Conservator of Forests V.T. Kandasamy deputed a team led by District Forest Officer V. Thirunavukkarasu and Forest Veterinarian N.S. Manoharan for the mission of mercy.

The officials first stabilised the calf, weak from hunger. The officials said it might not have had even its first feed. It was given baby food mixed with glucose, diluted in tender coconut water. After two or three feeds, the calf started playing around with the forest staff.

To avoid human smell on the calf and possible rejection by the herd, anti-poaching watchers, Mr. Kuppusamy and Mr. Rangasamy, smeared elephant dung on themselves and took care of the little one.

Three teams led by Forest Range Officers R. Thannappan, M. Dineshkumar and M. Nazir, along with trackers, picked the trail.

No response

Spotting the herd about two kilometres into the jungles, the forest staff lifted the calf and placed it a little distance away.

Sensing the presence of elephants, the calf started trumpeting in a bid to draw its mother's attention.

However, the herd did not respond. None of the other elephants trumpeted in reply. At one point, the herd even took a few paces away from the calf.

The efforts would continue throughout Monday night and on Tuesday, if required, the officials said.

If the reunion did not materialise, they might consider shifting the calf to a Forest Department camp, they said.

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