A month-old baby elephant was found lying in a paddy field, bleeding from its mouth, after being beaten and abandoned by its mother, outside the Buddhangala Wildlife Sanctuary, in Ampara.
Early on Thursday morning, residents of the village of Walathapitiya woke up to see a mother elephant desperately trying to push its infant into the jungle. The calf – which was later found to be deformed, with inwardly turned legs – was moving slowly, and was unable to keep up with its mother, while the impatient mother kept prodding the infant and lashing out at it with its trunk.
The villagers immediately contacted the Ampara wildlife office, and a team of wildlife officers rushed to the scene.
By now, one hour later, the mother elephant seemed worn out by its efforts to push the baby into the safety of the jungle. On seeing the crowd and the approaching officers, the mother started to panic, and even kicked the baby. According to those present, the mother elephant’s kicks were so violent and powerful that the baby was thrown into the air and landed 10 feet away.
The injured jumbo was taken to the wildlife office and a medical team, led by veterinarian Dr. Pramuditha Devasurendra, immediately set to work. They put the animal on a saline drip and fed it milk.
The next day the baby was showing signs of recovery. The plan was to send the animal to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage once it was well and deemed fit to travel.
But Dr. Devasurendra later noticed that the baby’s upper jaw and palate were damaged, possibly from its mother’s kicks to its face; milk being fed to the baby was passing into its lungs.
The vets say the baby’s chances of survival are low, but they are doing their best to save the animal.
Dr. Devasurendra, who specialises in treating elephants, said this was the first time that a live but deformed baby elephant has been found. She told the Sunday Times that physically handicapped baby elephants born in the wild seldom survive.
The carcasses of many deformed dead baby jumbos have been found abandoned by their herds. According to the residents of Walathapitiya, every night a herd of some 50 wild elephants cross the road from the sanctuary and invade the adjoining farmlands and paddy fields. The villagers believe the baby elephant belongs to this herd.