As the readers of the Hindu know, (http://m.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/friendly-jumbo-injured-again/article7631100.ece) Rivaldo, the emblematic elephant of the Sigur Range, Nilgiris, has been attacked by another tusker and hurt. For ten days, the Forest Department staff including the Thepakaddu veterinary doctor and the Singara Range Officer supervised the treatment operation at the Sigur Nature Trust premises. The operation was non-traumatic for the elephant because he was not captured as Rivaldo has already been treated in the Sigur Nature Trust premises, he was easily brought back by a Forest Guard who regularly looks after him. Antibiotics and nutrients were delivered in fruits. Since Rivaldo is very docile, the wounds could be sprayed with various medicines, in a relatively safe environment.
The treatment was effective and Rivaldo’s wounds regressed. However, treatments without capture present the inconvenience that wounds cannot be cleaned directly and sutured. The healing is slower and the Forest Department staff and all Rivaldo’s friends will follow him up till the wounds are healed.
Treating an elephant is a remarkable operation involving approximately 15 staff members for ten days, plus the cost of medicine and food to maintain the elephant focused without stressing him. Some guards need to be very close to the elephant, feeding him by hand. Other personnel, including the veterinary doctor take enormous (but controlled) risks approaching the elephant on the side. These operations require expertise and are relatively dangerous for the public, as the elephant remains free of its movement.
All wild elephants cannot be treated because in principle, they are supposed to survive in natural conditions provided by protected areas, where they sometimes meet with accidents, infections, predators etc. and die of natural death. But as tuskers have been heavily poached, it is good management practice to treat the easier cases. Moreover, some animals, like Rivaldo, become emblematic – the symbol of humanity’s love towards elephants. In a world where Asian elephant are endangered according to the IUCN, it is comforting to see dedicated attention extended towards elephants.
During the whole operation, Rivaldo has been calm and gentle. He is a real foody and no one knows for sure if he understood why he was treated with jackfruits, sugarcane and other candy-like food. But all witness to this operation can testify that Rivaldo was delighted of the attention he received, slowly closing his eyes when his favorite guard petted him. At the end of each day, he had his five minutes of absolute peace with humanity and it was beautiful to see.
Our desire here is to inform, without being sensational (hence the absence of names, except that of Rivaldo) and without attempting to express any expert opinion. We were host of this operation, our opinion cannot be that of a professional veterinary doctor. However, we want to pay homage to the Forest Department staff who was present for 10 continuous days, during the week ends or festivals. Without their dedication, Rivaldo may not have survived. We are grateful for their effort.