Crowds hamper rescue bid for wild elephant

Bangladeshi wildlife officials in Jamalpur district observing the elephant, which has been avoiding dry ground because of large crowds following it.
Bangladeshi wildlife officials in Jamalpur district observing the elephant, which has been avoiding dry ground because of large crowds following it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Animal separated from herd in India's floods weakened after being stranded in Bangladesh

DHAKA • Huge crowds of villagers following a wild elephant stranded in Bangladesh for more than a month by floods are hampering efforts to rescue it, forestry officials said yesterday.

Severe floods in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam separated the four-tonne female elephant from its herd, as strong currents in the Brahmaputra river washed it across the border to northern Bangladesh in late June.

Last week, Indian wildlife officials travelled to Bangladesh to join local forest rangers and vets to rescue the animal, which is now struggling to stand on its feet after a journey of more than 100km.

Bangladeshi vet Sayed Hossain said: "It's now standing in five-feet flood water in Jamalpur district.

"It is extremely weak. There are more than 10,000 people watching it from a close distance."

He said the crowds were hampering the elephant's efforts to reach higher ground as "thousands of villagers have been constantly following the animal", even at night.

Forestry official Tapan Kumar Dey said a team had brought a dart gun, crane and lorry to carry the animal once it reaches dry ground and can be tranquillised, but the operation cannot be carried out while the elephant is in water.

"Her condition is very bad. Last night it travelled 12km, but it mostly avoided dry ground because of the presence of so many people," Mr Dey said.

A trained elephant was being brought to the scene in a desperate attempt to lure the wild animal away from the water.

"It is so weak that it can't even lift its trunk," said visiting Indian forestry official Ritesh Bhattacharjee.

"You can see her ribs from a distance."

The rescue bid comes days after Indian wildlife officers appealed for help in caring for eight rhino calves pulled from the flood waters in Assam.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Crowds hamper rescue bid for wild elephant'. Print Edition | Subscribe