‘Gentle giant’ of Kabini backwaters no more

June 13, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:40 am IST - MYSURU

It is suspected to have died 3-4 days ago; carcass was found within Gundre range of Bandipur

The elephant was known for its long tusks and frequently sighted at the Kabini backwaters.R. Krishna KumarR. Krishna Kumar

The elephant was known for its long tusks and frequently sighted at the Kabini backwaters.R. Krishna KumarR. Krishna Kumar

The majestic tusker with arguably the longest tusks, rarely found in Asiatic elephants, and a regular sight at the Kabini backwaters is no more.

It is suspected to have died at least three or four days ago and the carcass was found within the Gundre range of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, abutting the Kabini backwaters, on Saturday.

The iconic elephant was instantly recognisable by the size of its tusks that converged near the tip of its trunks and extended beyond. Known to be of gentle temperament and calm demeanour, it used to silently amble along the shores of the backwaters, munching grass and sipping water.

A lone ranger and rarely seen in an herd, the gentle giant was christened as Bhogeshwara by the local officials and no trip to Kabini backwater was complete without his sighting.

Ramesh Kumar, director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, said the elephant lived its full life in the wild and was speculated to be around 60 years.

Natural death

“Our field staff on their beat stumbled across its carcass. The elephant died a natural death having lived for about 60 years and both its tusks were intact.Besides, there was no sign of any physical injury,” said Mr. Kumar.

While one of the tusks measured 2.54 metres the other one was 2.34 metres, said Mr. Kumar. He said there is a widely held belief that this elephant sported the longest tusks in Asia though one could not be sure. But there was no special watch over the elephant given its iconic status and it used to be conspicuous even if it was surrounded by a large herd.

Mr. Kumar said elephants, as they age, suffer wearing out of teeth and consequently the ability to chew. Hence, their intake reduces to a point where they cannot eat properly as a result of which starvation sets in. This was also the case with Bhogeshwara as well, said Mr. Kumar.

The tusks were removed and the carcass was left for the natural decomposition to set in. Besides, scavenging animals and birds of prey feed on the carcass. The earlier practice was to incinerate the carcasses of elephants but it was recently disbanded because it deprived the scavenging animals of their food.

The news of Bhogeshwara’s death was received with sorrow by wildlife lovers and his photographs widely shared on social media.

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