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Elephant carries body of her calf in north Bengal for two days

The herd of the elephant and the calf is at the Red Bank Tea Garden.

The herd of the elephant and the calf is at the Red Bank Tea Garden. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Forest officials and residents of tea gardens at Jalpaiguri in north Bengal have been witnessing a heart-wrenching sight over the past two days as an adult female elephant is carrying around the body of her dead calf. Locals said that the calf died on Friday but the mother has refused to leave it since, and is believed to have carried the body for about seven kilometres and brought into a tea garden.

Anshu Jadav, Divisional Forest Officer, Gorumara Wildlife Division told The Hindu that mother and calf are at Red Bank Tea Garden that comes under Binnaguri Wildlife Squad. Ms. Jadav said that the elephant herd to which the mother and calf belong is also there at the tea garden and forest officials are monitoring the situation. Videos of the elephant struggling to lift the body of its calf with its trunk have surfaced and gone viral on social media. Forest officials are using drones to monitor the movement of the elephant and the herd. 

Sudhir Guha, an official of the Red Bank Tea Garden, said that the mother had brought the body of the calf from some distance into the tea garden, and for elephant herd has been in the garden for the past two days. Earlier, the animal was alone but now the herd of 30 elephants have joined the grieving mother. It is not clear how the calf died. Residents of the tea garden are waiting for the elephant and herd to return to the forest.

Watch | Elephant carries body of dead calf

“Elephants are known to take extra care for their calves. We have come across several incidents of elephants pulling all stops to rescue their calves from any kind of distress. This incident is also an indicator of elephant behaviour. What is significant here is that the entire herd has joined the grieving female,” Shyama Prasad Pandey, coordinator of the Wildlife Trust of India-SPOAR elephant corridor monitoring project in northern West Bengal, said. 

According to the last elephant census, north Bengal’s forested patches are home to about 514 elephants. Incidents of human elephant conflict are not uncommon in the region.

Recent studies have shown that elephants show exploratory (sniffing and inspecting) and epimeletic (supporting distressed animals) behaviours, and may physically help dying calves.

The paper titled ‘Behavioural responses of free-ranging Asian elephants ( Elephas maximus) towards dying or dead conspecifics (members of same species) authored by Nachiketha Sharma, Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel and others in 2019 throws light on free-ranging Asian elephants towards dying and dead elephants.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 2:59:01 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/elephant-carries-body-of-her-calf-in-north-bengal-for-two-days/article65473581.ece