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Projects in India

Filtering by Tag: Dr. Sarma

Mayapur Temple Elephants with Dr. Sarma

Vanessa Gagne

An account by Ms. Hrimati Dasi, 

Dr. Sarma’s visit started with me fetching him from the Kolkata airport. The 3-4 hour car ride via the bumpy and crowded National highway 34, is filled up with talks about the doctor's past elephant adventures.

We arrive late in Mayapur and I check him into his guest room, which I had pre booked for him. After Kushal stopped at my house for a hot and fresh  cup of my own cow's milk, I equip the doctor with my extra bicycle, so he can easily make it early in the morning to the Mayapur elephant care center.

Our elephants rise from their slumber before sunrise and are bathed and groomed by their dedicated mahouts and taken out for their routine morning walk.

I meet the Doctor at 6:30 am at the care center, setup the microscope and prepared the elephant dung for examination. The doctor was very satisfied with the findings. No fasicola and only one strongyloid ova was found. As we discussed the course of treatment and a deworming schedule.  Our beautiful young ladies, Laksmipriya and Bishnupriya entered the gate to the care center from their morning walk.

After they drank water, I took their body measurements, while the Doctor wrote it down in the medical register.  

Krishna Pada Ghosh, a local Veterinary assistant, joined us to administer tetanus vaccinations to the elephants. After they were vaccinated, it was time to inspect the bottom of the elephant's feet. "It's not too bad." said the doctor, "only a little trimming of the nails is needed."

Three mahouts, Mintu, Bharat and Ajay, Dr. Sarma and myself, all got to do the pedicure on our Princesses!  Having the girls lay down on their sides is the most practical way to get the foot work done.  Because we routinely give foot care to the elephants, they are very cooperative and calm while getting their pedicure done.

After being so well behaved and patient with us, the girls received some more extra fresh cut grass from our grass cutting crew.


While the elephants munched on their breakfast, their doctor discussed their general diet plan and fodder varieties with us. To keep the elephants in topmost health, we grow organically a variety of fodder 'in house' for them, according to season.

In the afternoon, after another bath, we hand fed their rations, which consists of soaked chickpeas, multi mineral/vitamin powder and black salt or/and natural rock salt, which gets wrapped in banana leaf.

Our mahouts know Dr. Sarma well. In their native State of Assam, elephant keeping is an age old tradition. So, when the doctor visits, they discuss elephants, many elephants. It is always a pleasure to listen in on their elephant adventure stories.

Before retiring for the night, I gave Kushal a little tour of our temple compound. We visited some shops and even bought a nice shirt for him to bring back home to his daughter.

The next morning was Sunday and, like every Sunday, time for a long walk to the next village Rajapur. It takes about an hour and a half for the elephants to walk to the mango groves in Rajapur, where a nice healthy breakfast of napier grass was waiting for them, before returning back to Mayapur.

In Mayapur it was time for our breakfast and to say goodby to the Doctor.

While I read the health report for our two elephants, Laksmipriya and Bishnupriya, I am thankful that they are able to receive the best possible medical care. Dr. Kushal Sarma has already many more elephants waiting for him, not only in Assam, but many other places in India.

Thank you AES, for making it possible.


Dr. Sarma Update

Vanessa Gagne

Dr. Kushal Sarma, whom you may remember from previous elephant health clinics AES funded and the electrocuted bull elephant he got back on his feet has continued to be, in his words: ' badly busy'!

Dr. Sarma on far right directing a health clinic for mahouts and their charges

Dr. Sarma on far right directing a health clinic for mahouts and their charges

Recently, he had a call to come immediately to the neighboring state of Nagaland, where human-elephant conflict struck again.  A wild bull killed four villagers and the angry residents threatened to kill him if Dr. Sarma could not remove him.  Luckily, he was immobilized and relocated successfully.  Not too soon thereafter a stranded elephant washed down the Brahmaputra into Bangladesh and desperately needed the doctor's expertise to be returned to its home.  Dr. Sarma made the trip to help it out of its dire straits.  The flooding in the area has created a disastrous situation for wildlife and humans alike.   

Elephant Day in Assam, India

Vanessa Gagne

Half-way around the world, Dr. Kushal Sarma also celebrated Elephant Day. He held the event at the Assam Agricultural University on September 21st.  The event had to be scheduled early due to school closures, but we don’t think the elephants minded, at least not the two that took part in this celebration, as they were treated to sugarcane, banana stems, and soaked gram (a popular legume found in many Indian dishes)!

The celebration started with a demonstration of elephant healthcare procedures followed by an exhibition of elephant literature, lectures, and a video.  The program started at 7 a.m. and lasted until 1:30 p.m. and included tea and snacks for the participants.  The four mahouts received Asian Elephant Support shirts (see the pictures) and the 35 participating veterinary students received a copy of Dr. Sarma’s book, Elephant Care, and a participation certificate.

Thank you, Dr. Sarma, for providing your students this extra learning opportunity!

Hope for Elephants in India!

Vanessa Gagne

Our collaborative campaign with Hope Elephants, “Partners for Pachyderms”, has come to an end and we are thrilled to say it was a success!  We surpassed our goal and raised $2105 for Dr. Kushal Sarma’s Elephant Healthcare and Emergency Response Program in Assam, India.  We are truly grateful to everyone that has made it possible for Dr. Sarma to continue his  amazing work for these elephants. 

Partnering for pachyderms

Vanessa Gagne

A Caring Collaboration for Asian Elephants

 Our story
Asian Elephant Support (AES) and Hope Elephants are working together to improve the lives of elephants living in the wild and in human care. 

Hope Elephants is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization that is bringing a small number of retired or injured Asian elephants to Maine from circus herds for care and rehabilitation. Hope Elephants is also an educational destination where visitors, especially school-age children, have an opportunity to see, hear, and interact with the animals as a platform to present the big issues surrounding conservation, habitat destruction, and ecology.

Asian Elephant Support is also a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization that supports the care and conservation of elephants inAsian range countries.  AES’s mission is to:

  •  Provide financial assistance and support for the health, welfare and conservation of elephants in Asian range countries.
  • Provide educational opportunities and supplies to those who care for captive Asian elephants in range countries.
  • Increase awareness and offer support for human-elephant coexistence to help protect the needs and future of the Asian elephant.

By combining efforts, resources, and expertise, we can accomplish more and make a greater impact for elephants in Asian range countries.

The impact
This project will directly benefit the wild and captive population of elephants in Assam, India.  Even though elephants play an important role in the culture and religion of India, there are relatively few individuals with elephant veterinary expertise.   Often the elephants live in remote locations and are difficult to reach, which makes responding to emergency situations more challenging. 

AES has been workingwith Dr. Kushal Sarma since 2011 to improve the lives of the elephants in Assam.  Because of his knowledge and willingness, Dr. Sarma is called to respond to health related elephant emergencies when needed.  As human-elephant conflict increases, so does the number of emergency situations.

What we need
The funds raised in this project will be used to support Dr. Sarma’s Elephant Healthcare and Welfare- Emergency Response Program in Assam, India. By being able to respond to emergency situations, the wild and captive elephants will receive the desperately needed veterinary care they deserve.

Our minimum ask is $2000 and any additional funds will be used to provide medicine and supplies for Dr. Sarma’s Elephant Health Care Clinics throughout Assam.

We will be sending out more information about this soon, but feel free to visit our website if you can't wait to learn more!

Elephant Health Clinics Update

Vanessa Gagne

With your support, Dr. Kushal Sarma continues to do amazing work for Asian elephants and the people who care for them in Assam, India.  Recently he conducted an elephant health care clinic in the Orang National Park and was able to treat 32 government forest camp elephants.  Orang National Park is located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra River and is home to many species including Indian rhinos, Bengal tigers, and Asian elephants.  The park is 78 square kilometers, but is encircled on three sides by people who are quickly encroaching on the land.  The human-elephant conflict is a growing problem in this area, so the elephants are utilized in anti-poaching patrols and to encourage the wild elephant population to stay within the safety of the park boundaries. 

This was a routine health care clinic and all the elephants were vaccinated against tetanus and hemorrhagic septicemia (an acute bacterial infection).  In addition, some routine stool examinations were conducted and the elephants were given de-worming medication.  All of the females and any bulls that appeared weak were given multi-vitamin and multi-mineral mixtures plus vitamin injections.

Dr. Sarma explaining a medical point to students

Dr. Sarma explaining a medical point to students

In addition to helping elephants, AES believes it is important to help the people who care for the elephants.  Most of the people at this clinic are poor and have very few resources to care for the elephants.  Dr. Sarma was able to distribute 40 uniform shirts and an additional 5 khukries (traditional knives).  The knives are used to trim the elephants’ feet and to cut fodder for the elephants, making them a valuable tool in improving the health of the elephants. The uniforms give the mahouts a sense of pride and ownership in the role they play conserving elephants in Assam. 

Mahouts in their new uniforms

Mahouts in their new uniforms

A special surprise occurred during the clinic when a beautiful wild bull visited the camp out of curiosity!  Upon inquiring, we were happily advised that he has many girlfriends in the elephant camps in this area and most of the calves born to captive mothers are sired by him.  However, we don’t believe he stayed around for foot care or vaccinations!

Wild bull came to visit

Wild bull came to visit

Dr. Sarma also advised he organized an Elephant Day at his college on October 2nd and has this report:

 “As a part of the countrywide celebration of “Wild Life Week” in the first week of October, the 2nd October, 2013 was celebrated as “Elephant Day”  with the initiative of the Department of Surgery & Radiology, College of Veterinary Science, Khanapara with various day long programmes. The celebration started with life demonstration of elephant healthcare procedures to the fourth and fifth year
BVSc & A.H. as well as some post graduate students by the experts of the department which was followed by an exhibition of rare books on elephants. In the next half of the programme, power point presentations were made on various topics involving the elephantsby Dr(Ms) Munmun Sarma, Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy & Histology, Dr. G. Mahato, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Dr. Bijoy Dutta, Associate Professor, Surgery & Radiology and Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma, Professor & Head of the Department of Surgery & Radiology who is an internationally renownedexpert on elephants. Dr. R. N. Goswami, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science and Dr. A. Chakroborty, Director of Research (Vety) also addressed the students on the occasion.” 

Our supporters of the “Hoof knives for Mahouts-India” program will be pleased to know that the knives are being distributed carefully and are greatly appreciated.  Please watch for future updates from
Dr. Sarma and feel free to cheer for the beautiful wild bull! 


Update from India

Vanessa Gagne

We first introduced Dr. Kushal Sarma in our February 2012 newsletter as the veterinarian who organized the one-day veterinary workshop in the city of Ahmedabad, India. At the Regional Asian Elephant Veterinary Workshop in March, our president and Dr. Sarma discussed a follow up visit to this location.  Recently Dr. Sarma advised that he had made an observational visit to Ahmedabad. While the health of the elephants appeared a bit better, another health clinic is definitely warranted and will be held as soon as possible.  At the workshop they also discussed a second group of elephants he thought could use some assistance. This is a group of elephants he encountered while working on a rhino relocation project in Kaziranga. Dr. Sarma has already organized a veterinary visit at Kaziranga and will be returning to operate on an elephant with an abscess on its back.

Dr. Sarma teaching at the workshop

Dr. Sarma teaching at the workshop

AES will be kept updated on the work done at these clinics, as well as further opportunities for us to help these and other elephant populations.  Many elephants reside in areas where their numbers are small and capable veterinarian assistance is not available.  In addition, many of the mahouts caring for elephants in these locations lead a very difficult life. We are looking into ways we can also help the people that care for the elephants.

Dr. Sarma demonstrating proper foot care

Dr. Sarma demonstrating proper foot care

In addition to being a working veterinarian, Dr. Sarma is also a university professor.  We feel privileged to have found a man of this talent and dedication to the welfare of Asian elephants. We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Sarma and we are grateful he is willing to put these extra clinics into his already very busy schedule.

We will keep you updated as this work progresses and thank you, Dr. Sarma!

Veterinary Workshop in Ahmedabad, India

Vanessa Gagne

In early 2011, we received an inquiry from a veterinarian from the state of Gujarat in Western India, who was faced with treating an extremely ill elephant.  Gujarat is a semi-arid state and is not ideal habitat for elephants; however, there are approximately 30 temple elephants living in this area.   Unfortunately, due to a lack of exposure and experience, the veterinarians in Gujarat do not have a lot of practical or theoretical knowledge of elephant healthcare and management.

Sadly, it was too late to save this gravely ill elephant, but during the process, we made inquiries among our advisors that resulted in our introduction to Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma.  Dr. Sarma is a professor at Assam Agricultural University in the College of Veterinary Science.  His position within the Department of Surgery & Radiology provides opportunities to teach, to participate in research and field work, and to publish his work.  Every year, he works with hundreds of captive elephants along with a significant number of wild elephants.  Even with his busy schedule, he found time to help us when we contacted him.

Dr. Sarma presenting at the workshop

Dr. Sarma presenting at the workshop

From our conversations with Dr. Sarma, it was decided that a workshop on the basic skills applicable to elephant healthcare would be helpful for both the elephants and the veterinarians who are involved in providing healthcare to the elephants. On December 25, Dr. Sarma led a one-day workshop on elephant healthcare and managerial practices in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India.  The workshop was held at the Jagannath Temple and was attended by 21 participants from 9 different cities.  

The lectures in the morning covered important topics such as the biological features of elephants, techniques of drug administration, anesthesia protocols, commonly occurring diseases and their management, foot care, and musth management.  After lunch, there were hands-on demonstrations of healthcare techniques including routine examinations, sites for injections, estimations of height and weight, and routine foot care.   The day concluded with an open discussion where many questions were answered and doubts alleviated.  The participants were very thankful for the opportunity and we are grateful that we could contribute to making the lives of these elephants, and the work of the veterinarians, a little easier.

Veterinary participants listening intently

Veterinary participants listening intently

We would like to thank Dr. Sarma for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his knowledge and we look forward to working with him in the future.  We would also like to thank the veterinary medical firm, Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd., for their help in making this workshop a reality.

Opportunities like this are only possible because of your generous donations. Please consider making a donation to Asian Elephant Support so that we may continue to support worthwhile projects like the veterinary workshop in Ahmedabad, India.  Thank you.

Mahout and elephant waiting their turn for the hands on demonstrations to begin

Mahout and elephant waiting their turn for the hands on demonstrations to begin