The annual elephant festival organised by the Karnataka forest department at the Sakrebailu Elephant Camp in Shivamogga district has been cancelled due to a herpes virus breakout. An elephant recently died at the camp after getting infected by the virus, and as many as 24 other pachyderms are undergoing treatment.
The festival attracts thousands of visitors every October to the camp situated on the banks of the Tunga river in Shivamogga district. Known as ‘Ane Utsava’ in Kannada, the festival sees several elephants participate in a parade, play football, compete in sugarcane and banana eating events.
On August 23, a 26-year-old elephant Naganna died in the camp. Test samples revealed that Naganna died due to herpes virus. The elephant was caught by the forest department in December 2017 for straying into human habitats in Ubrnai forest of Channagiri taluk. It was brought to Sakrebailu camp and tamed.
According to forest officials, out of 23 elephants, 10 of them have been shifted to the Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary, which is 8 km far from the camp. Chandrasekhar, Deputy Forest Conservator, said, “We are taking precautionary measures to ensure the rest of the elephants do not get infected by Herpes. 10 elephants are kept under observation in Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary.”
Dr Vinay, a veterinarian at Sakrebailu camp, told Indianexpress.com, “Infected elephants have symptoms like loss of stamina, reduced appetite, nasal discharge and swollen glands. Within two-three days of these symptoms, the elephant dies.”
“Old elephants and calves have more chances of getting this infection. As a precautionary measure, we give immuno-stimulant drugs,” he added.
Since January 2017, eight elephants have died at the Sakrebailu camp of which two deaths were due to age-related illness, two died due to injuries sustained when attacked by other elephants, while the others succumbed to health problems. Apart from Naganna, in 2019, three cubs, Bajaji, Bharathi and Sharada died due to health problems in the camp
The first reported deaths due to the herpes virus was at Nandan Kanan Zoo in Bhubaneswar, according to the Central Zoo Authority. In August, four calves between the ages of six and 10 died in Nandan Kanan Zoo in Bhubaneswar, followed by the fifth elephant that died in Chandaka forest in October first week.