A four-month-old elephant calf, which was abandoned by its mother and rescued two months ago, died of continued diarrhoea and dysentery at the Alipore Zoological Gardens here in the early hours of Friday.

The calf, separated from its herd when it was less than two months old, had an underdeveloped immune system, since it had not been nursed by its mother, zoo director Raju Das said.

“In the wild, elephant calves normally feed on mother's milk for one to one-and-a-half years. So this one was naturally weak.” Since no dietary supplements were available for wild animals, the calf was fed with artificial supplements such as Lactogen and Cerelac.

A security person, a zookeeper and a mahout were with the animal round the clock, and a team of three veterinarians always on call, he said.

The calf was rescued by officials of the Forest Department in Paschim Medinipur district. A herd of 60-70 elephants had crossed the Subarnarekha river from Orissa, but was chased away by villagers after they started marauding crops. The calf was left behind. It even sustained an injury in the hind leg. Officials tried to reunite the calf with the herd, but failed as elephants do not take back weak or injured calves once they come into contact with humans.