Finally, Assam’s ‘Elephant Doctor’ gets his dues
Widely known in the wildlife circles of India as the “Elephant Doctor”, Kushal KonwarSarma is a professor and head of Department of Surgery and Radiology of the College of Veterinary Science.
GUWAHATI: Assam’s “Elephant Doctor” has got his dues, finally, as he has been conferred the Padma Shri.
Over the past 15 years or so, Dr Kushal Konwar Sarma traversed around 5 lakh kilometres, mostly in the jungles of Assam, and skipped weekend off to treat and tame nearly 10,000 elephants.
Widely known in the wildlife circles of India as the “Elephant Doctor”, Sarma is a professor and head of Department of Surgery and Radiology of the College of Veterinary Science in Guwahati.
In a state that has a huge population of elephants, there will hardly be a day when he is not required to treat or tame a jumbo. However, in doing so, he never neglected his duties at the college of veterinary science.
“My primary duty is to teach students and I have never missed a class. At the same time, I am required to go from one jungle to another to extend my service to the animals. My greatest problem has been time management. Sometimes, I am taking a class and I get a call for emergency duty,” the 59-year-old told this newspaper.
He said over the past 15 years, he had worked days and nights to treat animals, mostly elephants. He has tamed 139 captive rogue jumbos which, he said, is a world record. He has also tamed around 100 wild elephants for treatment and translocation. On average, he treats or tames 750-800 elephants a year.
Sarma had qualified for studies in both medical science and engineering but he chose a career in veterinary science. He had developed his love for elephant as a child.
“There was a merchant at our village. He had an adult female elephant named Lakhsmi. He used to keep her at our house but she died one day. After her death, I often used to get elephants in my dream. Later, when I was pursuing post-graduate studies in surgery, the head of my department was an elephant doctor and I used to move around with him to treat elephants. I had developed love for elephants also by reading two books written on the animal,” Sarma said.
He is a Steering Committee member of “Project Elephant” of Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.
“I’m happy to have got Padma Shri but this is not what that I worked for. I enjoy the most by teaching my students,” he added.
Wildlife activists and forest officials in Assam are ecstatic that Sarma has been conferred the award. They said it was a proud moment for wildlife research and conservation in the state.