A LOCAL farmer has given part of his ragi field for him to lie down. Tents have been erected to provide him shelter. Private water tanks have been hired and stand in wait to douse him if temperatures soar. Someone has placed two big tyres for him to rest his head on, others have put gunny bags on his body to keep him cool. People are offering special prayers at temples and coming to offer him the prasadam.
It’s been more than 50 days now that an injured Mudde Sidda first got stranded in the Manchanabele dam at Avverahalli village near Bengaluru. Now, as experts worry he may be breathing his last, officials and villagers who have taken the 4-tonne elephant under their care, and the hundreds of others who have been coming to see him, are doing all they can to save Sidda.
Since he first emerged floating in the water of the dam, the 45-year-old blind and incapacitated elephant has captured the imagination of Karnataka.
Over the past seven-eight weeks, though, Sidda has been rapidly sinking, with efforts by veterinarians and the Forest Department to treat his leg and get him back on his feet proving futile.
Officials had earlier hoped to heal him enough to move him to an animal rescue centre at Bannerghatta National Park, around 40 km away, for rehabilitation. But experts admit that chance is receding.
“He was moving around in the water for many days. Last week, his condition worsened and he stopped eating. On Wednesday, he fell to the ground from weakness and has not been able to stand up,” says Chandra Shekhar, a forest guard who supervises the forest watchers looking after Sidda.
The Magadi range of the Forest Department has deployed six such forest watchers for Sidda. Three men keep guard during the day and another three at night. “Sidda has become like family to us,” says one of the forest officials.
Earlier, the department was worried about scared villagers harming the animal to chase it away, but those fears have long gone. “The elephant trusts us now. Earlier, when he was able to move, we would call his name and, floating in the dam, he would swim to us. He would return to the water after he was fed,” says Nagaraju, also deployed to look after Sidda.
The watchers must also ensure that the treatment plan as set by veterinary experts for Sidda is followed, and that he is kept cool by dousing him with water. “Three forest watchers and a forest guard stay with Sidda when his condition worsens. He can consume around 20 bottles of glucose, 60 pouches of Electral, three sacks of maize, around 10 kg of sugarcane and around 4 kg of jaggery at night,” says forest watcher Shekhar.
A colleague who did not want to be named says that not just the Forest Department, people have been dropping by to give food.
Sometimes they themselves don’t have enough food but the elephant never lacks, laugh the forest watchers. “We need to go 4 km to find a hotel. Or we cook ourselves from the rations provided by the Forest Department,” a staffer says.
At night, they sleep on the hard ground beside the elephant, in the open.
Dr K Nithin, a veterinary doctor with Wildlife SOS at Bannerghatta National Park, says they are also taking steps to ensure that Sidda’s stomach and intestines remain clear, since the elephant has been unable to clear his bowels without assistance.
Named by mahouts at Banerghatta National Park, Sidda, who is partially blind, is believed to have broken his right foreleg when he fell into a pit after straying way from a migratory path between the sanctuary and the Savanadurga forest. Bullet pieces have also been found embedded in his leg, suggesting he was shot. Experts believe he initially floated around in the dam to avoid putting weight on his leg.
“We are not doctors or god to save Sidda,” says a forest watcher. “We are just praying to god to save him.”