JAIPUR: Are elephants prone to corona infections like humans? To find out the truth, Rajasthan has started testing jumbos in Jaipur for coronavirus. The Pink City is home to over a hundred elephants who mostly live in the Hathi Gaon or Elephant Village close to the historic Amber Fort.
With this, Rajasthan has notched up another first in the Covid-19 battle. The state has now become the first in the country to hold a camp to test jumbos.
Guided by their mahouts wearing masks and gloves, the elephants stood in a queue, maintaining a social distancing at the special Corona Camp in Kunda village near Amber Fort. A Medical Board consisting of three veterinary doctors examined the eyes, nose, and other parts of each elephant. Besides blood samples, trunk wash, oral, nasal, urine, and fecal samples of the jumbos were taken to ensure effective tests. As the jumbos are not used to giving blood samples, doctors took special care of the gentle giants while collecting their samples and they were fed with watermelons after giving their samples.
The three-day annual testing of the elephants concluded on Saturday on the outskirts of Jaipur, which is home to more than 110 elephants. Sixty-three of them live in the Elephant Village and 50 live with owners in areas around the famous Amber Fort.
This unique effort to test elephants for coronavirus has been jointly organised by Rajasthan’s Forest Department in collaboration with the Hathi Gaon Vikas Samiti. Similar camps to check elephants for various ailments are held in Jaipur every six months but this is the first time that the jumbos are being tested for the coronavirus infection.
Dr. Arvind Mathur, Senior Veternary Officer of the Jaipur Zoo who was a part of the Medical Board that examined the elephants remarked, “As these elephants are used for tourism purposes, its good that they should be fully screened. Since the corona pandemic is around, it was felt that these animals should be tested. Swabs have been taken from elephants for the first time in Rajasthan.”
Besides testing the elephants for COVID-19, the medical Board examined the jumbos on a variety of parameters. Dr. Rajesh Sharma, the Deputy Director, PolyClinic, Jaipur remarked, "While there are no reported cases of corona in elephants, we have done this testing for preventive purposes. Since the coronavirus is spreading so fast, our Medical Board felt that besides samples for routine diseases, we should collect for corona also. We have collected 100 samples and for testing Covid-19 we will send the samples on a random basis to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly to test it on RT PCR Machines.”
The president of the Hathi Gaon Vikas Samiti, Ballu Khan said getting the jumbos tested for coronavirus will keep the elephants healthy and boost the confidence of visitors who come to take the elephant ride at Amber fort. He added that about 8,000 families are directly or indirectly dependent on the jumbos. According to Dr. Arvind Mathur, results of the tests on the elephants are expected to arrive in about 7 to 10 days.
For centuries, elephants have been a part of Jaipur’s royal heritage. In recent decades, elephant rides at the historic Amber fort have been a prime tourist attraction of the Pink City. Due to the rides they provide to tourists, the elephants are often come in close contact with their caretakers. Despite losing all their income due to the lockdown over the corona pandemic, mahouts here have taken special care of the elephants at Amber. Recently, when a pregnant elephant was brutally killed in Kerala, Jaipur’s elephants and mahouts had paid a special tribute at the Hathi Gaon located on the outskirts of the Pink City.