3-month-old Lakshmi, adopted by Jhargram zoo, refused food for the last two of its 12 days of separation from herd

Twelve days after it was separated from its herd, a three-month-old baby elephant on Sunday died at the Jhargram zoo in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district despite efforts by doctors and forest officials to nurse her back to health.

“The female baby elephant had stopped taking any food since two days [ago] and died on Sunday afternoon, leaving the entire zoo staff, who used to look at her as a pet, grief-stricken,” Asis Kumar Samanta, Divisional Forest Official, Jhargram, told The Hindu on Monday.

Christened Lakshmi, the calf was handed over to forest officials by villagers who had found it abandoned, said Mr. Samanta. While it is rare that a baby elephant survives once separated from its herd, the zoo staff had become attached to it. “When a villager handed over the animal to us, it could not even stand. We gave it goat milk, coconut milk and sugarcane juice and Lakshmi had started showing signs of improvement. But suddenly it began refusing to take anything,” Mr. Samanta said.

The calf refused the rice and bananas offered to it and had to be administered a saline drip.

“Had the elephant been a little older, even five months of age, it would have been an easy task to get her back to health,” Mr. Samanta said.

The calf was part of a herd of 100 elephants that headed towards Odisha. It was rescued from Kalaikunda village in the Sankrail belt area of the Paschim Medinipur district on October 22. “The herd must have felt that the calf will not survive or else it would not have been abandoned,” the official pointed out.

Beginning June every year, hundreds of elephants from Jharkhand’s Dalma hills migrate to West Bengal and return in February. They go as far as Bankura district in the south and into certain areas of Odisha, Mr. Samanta said.

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