Guwahati, Dec 9: An elephant calf was rejected by its herd after it was smeared with vermilion and mustard oil by villagers in an apparent attempt to worship “Ganesh Baba” after it was found near a villageunder Hojai forest division in Nagaon district on Wednesday.
Forest department personnel tried twice to reunite the calf with the herd but the latter refused to accept it because of the alien odours emanating from its body.
The nearly three-month-old calf had to be shifted to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation near Kaziranga after repeated attempts by the forest department personnel and International Fund for
Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India officials to reunite it with the herd failed.
The smell of vermilion and mustard oil smeared on the calf's body could be the reason for the herd refusing to accept the calf.
The villagers spotted the calf in a sugarcane plantation at Lashkar Pathar early Wednesday. They then informed the forest department but not before the ritual worshipping of Ganesh baba.
Said Jayant Deka, assistant conservator of forests, Hojai range: "We rushed to the spot immediately and took possession of the calf. Subsequently, we spotted the herd grazing in a nearby area and released the calf near the herd.
"We saw the calf running towards the herd and trying to mingle. We came back thinking that it was safe. But
to our surprise the calf was found abandoned again after about an hour. We then washed its body with water and smeared it with elephant dung so that the herd accepts it, but only a female elephant, believed
to be its mother, was seen welcoming the calf in the second attempt. The rest of the herd was not allowing the calf to be a part of it. Finally, the mother also left with the herd, leaving the calf behind."
There were mainly two reasons for the elephants refusing to accept a calf belonging to the herd — if the calf is separated from the herd for a long period and if it comes into contact with human beings.
Elephant herds also abandon calves when they fail to keep pace with the herd because of sickness.
In the Nagaon incident, the calf was a healthy one and there was no sign of any sickness. It was only because of the human contact that the herd refused to accept the calf,
Rathin Barman, the co-ordinator of IFAW-WTI (Northeast), said the intention of the local people who smeared the calf with vermilion and mustard oil sprang out of ignorance about animal habits.
This was a total lack of awareness among the villagers who worshipped the calf as Ganesh Baba. The abandoned calf was finally brought to the rehabilitation centre.
"It is doing fine, though it is suffering from moderate dehydration,” said Anil Deka, IFAW-WTI (International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India) vet, currently attending to the calf.
"We are feeding it with electrolyte now. We will start feeding it milk soon", said Deka.