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Agam, orphaned calf in Sumatra

Agam: A tale of an orphaned calf and those who care for him

Agam's story begins in November, 2012

Agam was rescued by local villagers in November 2012 after he fell into an abandoned well in the province of Aceh, Sumatra.  It is estimated that he was 3-4 months old at the time.  

Agam receiving his supplement.

Agam receiving his supplement.

His herd was no longer in the area so Agam wandered around the vicinity of the village after his rescue.  The villagers were concerned that he would not survive without his family, so they contacted the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC).

One of the VESSWIC veterinarians spent several days in December caring for Agam while they searched for his family. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, so the decision was made to take Agam to the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) in Saree, Aceh. At the ECC he would have a better chance to survive with proper care and medical attention.  The VESSWIC veterinarians worked with the mahouts and local veterinarians to develop a nutritional food supplement.  While he would eat small amounts of banana, watermelon, grass, and leaves, a majority of his diet consisted of this food supplement.

March 2013

In March the VESSWIC veterinarians returned to Saree to check on Agam’s progress, and Agam was doing well and continued to thrive.  He has begun to eat solid foods and his milk supplements are slowly being decreased.

May 2013

Agam is doing well, but with his increased bodyweight and age he is needing more supplement.

June 2013

During their regular vet visit Dr. Anhar and Dr. Rosa also checked the elephants ECC Saree including the orphan Agam. Agam is in a healthy stable condition. He is significantly increasing his intake of normal solid foods so his milk supplementation can now slowly be reduced. However, he will be given his milk and supplement still for nutrition for at least another 10 months.

July 2013  

Agam is fit and healthy and by now feeding already a lot on normal solid foods and much less dependent on milk supplements.

November 2013  

Agam has a new playmate Amoi and is doing well. VESSWIC built him a night enclosure to keep  him safe.

September 2014

Agam was growing well and turning into a lovely elephant when his accident occurred. Below is a statement from Dr. Christopher Stremme of VESSWIC.

The orphaned baby elephant Agam about three months ago was running around playing with another young elephant (Rosa) and slipped and fell down on a slope. Very sadly during this event he very severely injured his hip-joint. It appeared to be a hip joint dislocation but it was not possible to clearly determine what and how much damage in detail had been done to the bones, muscle and tendon structures in the area of his left hip joint. Several attempts to take an x- ray of his pelvis, hip joint and upper leg unfortunately were not successful because the x-ray machine available from the local veterinary faculty was not powerful enough to produce sufficient pictures of tissue of this thickness.

The lameness caused by this hip joint injury is very severe and Agam since this incident is almost completely unable to use his right hind leg to bear any weight on it. Pain management and anti-inflammatory treatments initially seemed to be able to result in some relief and improvement of his mobility and for some weeks seemed to somehow help him to cope with his injury, he still was able to stand up and slowly walk around by himself and his appetite was undisturbed. But sadly by then it was already very obvious that this injury would not fully heal and recover to normal and with increasing age and bodyweight it would not only worsen the condition and structure of the damaged joint and leg, but also due to increased weight on the other three legs potentially cause joint damage specially on the left hind leg and thus significantly shorten Agams life expectancy.

Unfortunately all attempts with medications, massages and physiotherapy during the last weeks to improve his situation have not led to any success and during the past 3 weeks the condition of both of Agam’s hind legs has dramatically worsened to a condition where he is not able to stand up anymore by himself and even needs mechanical assistance to stand on three legs to ensure not to fall down again so ha can continue to feed. His appetite is still normal but his condition is increasingly becoming an ongoing torture. We don’t see any chance anymore of improvement in his condition and he is obviously being tortured by his condition, se we have strongly suggested to the authorities to permit euthanasia. We have formerly requested the approval from the authorities to proceed with this, as Sumatran elephants are protected animals and is strictly prohibited by law to kill such animals and there is no exception for this in the laws for euthanasia in such medical cases. We are currently waiting for approval from the authorities to proceed and continue to provide support, food and as much pain free comfort as possible until this time.

We are very grateful for all the support everybody has provided Agam and very sad to bring you this news. Agam has progressed very well over the last year so this situation is very unfortunate. We wish to thank you all and hope that in Agam’s name you will continue to do whatever you can to help fight for the survival of the Sumatran elephant.

October 2014

In September we sent out a special bulletin advising of a fall Agam had taken and that the resulting injuries were irreparable only to worsen with age and increased weight.  In the past month, Agam’s condition deteriorated to the point where he could not stand without the support of a sling.   Whether in the sling or, for relief from the sling, lying on a mattress, the weight of even juvenile elephants is such that he developed pressure sores, something all of us who have cared for a bedridden loved one understands all too well.

On October 26th, Agam passed away with VESSWIC still awaiting the government’s permission to end his suffering humanely through euthanasia.  Perhaps the animal right’s activists that got involved were well-meaning; however, their lack of expertise in this situation only caused delays in the decision and prolonged suffering for Agam.   The necropsy performed by the ECC veterinarian, Dr. Rosa, and the VESSWIC team confirmed the earlier diagnosis of metabolic bone disease (MBD)  The MBD caused numerous bone fractures, advanced deterioration of the bone tissue, and degeneration of the joint cartilage.  Even with the pain medications that were administered, this calf had a very painful end to his short life.

Agam was an orphaned elephant.  He lost his mother when he fell into a well.  His herd moved on and couldn’t be located even after days of searching for them.  He thrived and seemed to be growing into a healthy little elephant when his accident brought to the surface a disease that would have caught up with him sooner or later.  Hopefully, his death will not be in vain.  The government, we hope, will work up agreements so no elephant, or any other wildlife, has to suffer a slow death when death is inevitable.  Agam’s story touched many hearts around the world.  Our sympathy and sincere gratitude goes out to the VESSWIC  team and all those who cared for him since he was first found as an orphan, nurtured him, and tended to him tirelessly throughout the last weeks of his life.