Every day there are more reports of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in Asia. In the Paneri tea estate in the Udalguri district of Assam, India, there is a herd of approximately 200 elephants. The elephants’ natural habitat has been completely destroyed so they take refuge in the tea estates during the day and descend on the farmers’ paddy fields and orchards at sunset. On August 28, 2013, a young bull elephant (approximately 18 years old) was electrocuted by live wires that had been left on the ground in the tea estate. In most cases of electrocution, the elephant dies, but luckily, this bull was still alive. Dr. Kushal Sarma, our veterinary partner in Assam, was immediately notified of the incident. He was able to send local vets to the site to provide initial treatment until he could arrive. Once he arrived, Dr. Sarma administered additional medications, including IV fluids.
By the time the bull was beginning to show signs of improvement, approximately 2000 people had gathered around the elephant. Dr. Sarma had to remove the onlookers and bring in a back hoe to help get the bull to his feet. At first, the bull stumbled a little, but quickly regained his balance and walked off to join a herd of elephants about 400 meters away. Dr. Sarma said, “He stood and threw a rare glance of gratitude towards me and walked away towards the herd . . .” Follow up reports from the tea estate manager state that the bull appears to be fine and is not showing any permanent effects from his close call.
This case confirms the talent and dedication of Dr. Sarma, and AES is very pleased to be working with such an extraordinary individual. Thank you Dr. Sarma for sharing this case history and thank you to our supporters for making it possible for AES to support dedicated people working to help elephants and their mahouts throughout Asia.