Madurai: Busy going to temples and mosques for festivals, aged pachyderm Sundari fetched good income for its owner for the last eight years. “Knowing that it has lost eyesight, he has distanced himself from the jumbo and it. Over the last two weeks it has been surviving with the support of the public as its food and medical expenses run to around Rs 2,000 a day,” mahout A Asan Mydeen told TOI.
Mydeen, 48, of Pottal Pudur near Alwarkurichi in Tirunelveli district, who has been a mahout since the age of eight, claimed that Sundari is 85 years old. But the veterinarian with the animal husbandry department who is treating it, said the female elephant is 68-years-old. “Eight-years-ago Beer Mohammed of Tenkasi in Tirunelveli district, bought Sundari from Neendoor in Kerala,” he said. As its mahout, Mydeen used to take the elephant to temple festivals and mosques. “She is very friendly and understanding. About a month ago we came to know that it has lost vision in both eyes and developed sores on its legs. All of a sudden he produced a set of documents before the forest department, claiming that I am Sundari’s owner and that he has nothing to do with it,” he lamented.
However, the illiterate man is determined to get the aged elephant treated and hand it over to safe hands. Brought to the government veterinary polyclinic in Sripuram, Tirunelveli, she has been surviving on boiled rice with jaggery and on rice flakes as she is unable to chew fodder with the only teeth she has. She is also undergoing treatment with some eye drops and ointments and sprays for the sores, apart from glucose to help her stay healthy.
Veterinary assistant surgeon S Selvamariappan said that the aged jumbo was suffering from mouth ulcer and digestive disturbances apart from lack of vision and sores on the legs. “The ulcers have reduced and the sores in the leg are also healing gradually. The loss of eye sight is due to old age or cataract,” he said.
“Blood, urine and dung samples have been sent for testing. We expect results of the tests from the Veterinary College and Research Institute here on Thursday. Officials from the forest department are also regularly visiting the jumbo and are monitoring her health,” the veterinarian added.
People who came to know about the elephant are spending Rs 1,500 a day for its food and around Rs 500 for its medicines. As uncertainty prevails over meeting the expenses on a day to day basis, S Muralidharan of Indian Centre for Animal Rights and Education (INCARE), Chennai, said that they plan to relocate the elephant to a place where it would be taken care of till it breathes its last. “Our veterinarian and member will visit the elephant and assess its problems. If it is fit for relocation we will get the required permissions from the forest department and relocate it to Rajapalayam, where another aged elephant Lakshmi is under care. Even if Sundari is above 80-years-old she can survive for a few more years. Recently a jumbo in Maharashtra died at the age of 100,” he said.