COIMBATORE: After hours of struggle to get back on its feet under an unforgiving summer sun, a wild elephant trapped in a slush on the outskirts of Sembukkarai forest near Anaikatti died on Thursday.
The 10-year-old cow elephant spent better part of its last few hours gasping for breath in a slush it had fallen into during a futile search for food and water. While forest officials launched a rescue operation on Wednesday, it was a tad too late by then.
A few tribal shepherds found the animal in the slush on Wednesday when they brought their cattle for grazing in the secluded spot under Anaikatti central reserve forest. While the forest officials reached the spot by afternoon, the elephant, suspected to have been trapped in the slush since Tuesday, was too exhausted to continue its struggle.
After a quick spot study, the officials found that the animal’s head was trapped in the slush, with only its trunk above the muddy puddle. They immediately swung into action and began draining out the water. However, the struggle had taken a toll on the pachyderm.
Finding the jumbo’s life fading away, the personnel doubled their efforts by bringing in a JCB machine to pull out the pachyderm. However, that too failed, with the elephant succumbing to exposure and exhaustion. Long hours in the slush had led to water entering its mouth, and eventually its death. N S Manokaran later conducted a postmortem on the animal and concluded that there were worms in the intestine of the pachyderm.
“We found that there was an internal haemorrhage, as ribs were broken in the impact of the fall,” said C Dinesh Kumar, forest range officer of Boluvampatti forest and also the in charge of Coimbatore forest.
“The stream near Sembukkarai forest area, where animals used to drink water, dried up in summer. There is a high chance that the animal might have fallen into the slush when it came to drink water,” he said.
The mission stands in stark contrast to the recent successful operations, wherein two elephants were rescued in Periyanacikenpalayam forest range.
In the first operation, a 10-year-old female elephant was rescued from a 50-ft-deep dry well after nearly 30 hours of struggle in Kovanur on March 23. Clockwork precision had also marked the March 23 efforts, which led to the rescue of the calf after a rescue operation spanning over five hours. The little pachyderm had fallen into the well 30 hours earlier.
The little one was tranquilised by a forest veterinarian and pulled out of the well during a well-coordinated operation handled by the personnel of the forest and fire and rescue service department. Similarly, a female elephant over 40 years of age was rescued after it got stuck in a slush in a percolation pond in Kunjoorpathy tribal settlement near Palamalai on April 1.
Wild elephant deaths due to starvation is also on the rise. In the Nilgiris region, two pachyderms died of inadequate food intake on Wednesday.