Sunday 4 December 2016

Indian elephant jumbo-sized problem after floods swept it thousands of miles

Published 14/08/2016 | 12:11

Bangladeshi villagers gather as wildlife experts attend to a fully grown Indian elephant that washed up in a swamp after being caught up in raging floodwaters (AP)
Bangladeshi villagers gather as wildlife experts attend to a fully grown Indian elephant that washed up in a swamp after being caught up in raging floodwaters (AP)

A fully grown Indian elephant that washed up in a swamp in Bangladesh after being caught up in raging flood waters has become a jumbo problem for wildlife officials on both sides of the border.

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Floodwaters carried the male elephant thousands of miles from upstream India before he became trapped in a swamp in Bangladesh's Jamalpur district some three weeks ago.

Wildlife workers tranquilised the elephant on Sunday so they could bring him closer to a highway to transport him by truck to a safari park outside Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.

Indian wildlife authorities abandoned a plan to send the elephant back to India because he was unlikely to be welcomed by his herd in the hilly forests of the remote north-eastern state of Assam.

They then agreed to let him be transferred to the park.

Heavy downpours have flooded vast swaths of eastern India since monsoon rains began in June.

Wildlife experts were experimenting with tranquilisation dosages because they wanted to make the transfer to the truck go smoothly, said retired forest conservator Tapan Kumar Dey who oversaw the rescue.

The swampy area where the elephant, whose age was not clear, was found was a few miles from the highway.

Forest guards and wardens used smaller doses of the tranquiliser and chains and iron hooks to get the elephant to start moving, said Mr Dey.

Wildlife authorities plan to use at least two domesticated elephants to help lead the way.

"We plan to use some elephants to encourage it to walk with them toward the main highway," said Mr Dey.

The elephant appeared to be in good condition, although when forest guards found him, he was dehydrated after being stuck in the swamp for days.

"Now our challenge is to bring it to the main highway, which is a few kilometres away," he said.

"From there, we will take it to the safari park on Monday."

Indian wildlife experts had visited the scene and agreed with Bangladesh's proposal to transfer the elephant to the Bangabandhu Safari Park, 32 miles north of Dhaka.

But another problem that wildlife wardens were facing was controlling the hundreds of people who have gathered to watch the rescue efforts, said Mr Dey.

Local villagers have named the elephant Bangabahadur, or Hero of Bengal.

Security officials held back curious villagers to keep them from hooting and cheering, which could disturb the elephant.

AP

Press Association

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