Bangladesh and India launched a major operation on Thursday to rescue a wild elephant stranded in marshy land for the past month after gushing floodwaters washed it across the border from upstream Assam, officials said. “A three-member Indian expert team led by a retired chief conservator of forest of theirs reached the scene at Sharishabari (of northern Jamalpur) to launch the rescue drive jointly with our forest officials and experts,” chief conservator of forest Mohammad Yunus Ali told reporters.
He added that the joint team with veterinary surgeons as members was equipped with tranquilizers and other equipment including medicines to rescue the elephant which was languishing in marshy land along the rivers. “India will take it back if possible, otherwise we will keep the elephant,” Bangladesh’s forest chief said, pointing out that in past two cases in 2004 and 2013, one attempt to return an elephant succeeded while another died on its way back.
Ali said India kept in touch with Bangladesh’s forest department since the animal, weighing around 4 tonnes, crossed the Brahmaputra river on June 27 and soon grabbed media attention as it was followed by hundreds of people in boats every day requiring police deployment to keep it undisturbed. It was roaming along the river shoals and swamps in three northern districts.
A forest official who was stationed at the scene to monitor the elephant’s behaviour and activities said it remained calm though it showed some signs of abnormal behaviour as it was forced to live in swamps for weeks despite being habituated in hilly forest environment. “The elephant looks tired and weak as it is finding limited items of food like rice plants and sugarcane plants or some banana trees supplied by us. Yet it remained non-violent,” said Ashok Mollik over phone.
Mollik said the elephant could not rest on a dry piece of land as higher land in the neighbourhood was occupied by people who were forced to take refuge there leaving their inundated homes.