BHOPAL: Vatsala, perhaps the oldest surviving elephant in the world, who was used as a nurse-midwife to pregnant elephants for three decades at Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, is now suffering from irreversible blindness. Interestingly, it’s the herd, which she took care of, that is now taking care of her, said reserve officials, who claim she is between 90 and 100 years old.
“Vatsala cannot see due to blindness caused by incurable cataract and her digestive system too has collapsed, forcing us to keep her in the sickbay,” PTR veterinarian Dr Sanjiv Gupta said. He added that the herd of young elephants taking care of their ‘daadi’ (granny), include Bapu, born in 2017; Manya , born in 2011; Prahlad (2012), Krishnakali (2013) and Poornima (2015). “It’s through their touch that Vatsala identifies them.”
Officials said when Vatsala was trans-located from Hoshangabad in 1993, she was tasked to manage the parturition (the process of giving birth) of female elephants as a midwife and nurse. Once the babies were two years old, Vatsala helped them in weaning. “The average life span of Asian elephants is 40-50 years. Vatsala came from Kerala in 1972 at the age of 45. This suggests that she could well be between 90 and 100 years old,” Gupta said.