Elephant enclosure in Vandalur zoo has a naughty calf

By Balasubramani Muniyandi Published on Jul 28, 2018 12:55 PM IST

Chennai: News Today's Zoo Tales, featuring Arignar Anna Zoological Park, popularly known as Vandalur zoo, will this week take the readers through the Elephant Safari.

Who is not fascinated by these huge animals and everyone would have wondered how a human can control such a massive animal.

Vandalur zoo is at present home to Prakriti, a young female elephant (2.5 years old) and Asokan (7 years old), a male sub-adult. When we visited the elephant section, as soon as the ambulance came to a screeching halt, the baby elephant which was tied to a stump, got excited. Sensing that something was happening, the mahout came out of his ‘house’.

This is when zoo veterinarian Pa Kalaignan introduced us to Prakriti.

Kalaignan spoke to the mahout and inquired about the behavioural pattern and eating habits of the animal. Even as he was talking to the mahout, Prakriti was busy trying to untie Kalaignan's shoelace.

Though he warned her not to do so, she succeeded in her mission. She is very naughty today, smiled Kalaignan.

The vet said just like most other elephants that come to the zoo, Prakriti is an orphan brought from Mudumalai. She is one among the three female elephants brought to the zoo, said Kalaignan.

"When she arrived here, she was under-nourished, but now she would easily get a good score," he said with pride, and added that she has the perfect barrel shape now and is very active. All this while Prakriti held his hand and took him for a walk.

Kalaignan said they have a special formula feed which keeps the elephants in the zoo healthy.

"Apart from these, we also provide salt lick nutrients for the animal which is an important aspect of their diet. We have our own fodder inside the zoo premises and the elephant feed is prepared inside the enclosure itself. There are also several trees in the enclosure that they can feed on. Just like humans, each elephant has its own taste and food should be given accordingly," he said.

Talking about the enclosure, he said elephants are used to walking for at least 16 hours for foraging and the enclosure here is one of the biggest and gives freedom to these gentle giants to move freely.

Speaking about the veterinarian aspect, Kalaignan said they carry out normal inspection on a regular basis.

"Apart from this, deworming is done. If the management of the enclosure is good, then the health of the animal can also be maintained. Just like horses, elephants at times get stomach problems and, hence, their diet is constantly monitored," he said.

Veterinarian K Sridhar said, "It is not easy to treat an elephant without its mahout: with one command, he can make the animal stay still for a long time so that we can carry out all the tests and treatment.’

"Elephants cannot be made to lie down for a long time as their body weight will crush their organs. We put intravenous (IV) on the back of the ear of the animal where the arteries and veins are clearly visible," he pointed out.

Kalaignan said an elephant is a very docile animal and unlike the other animals at the zoo, the animal keeper (mahout) stays along with the animal.

"A well-trained mahout will be able to keep the animal under control at all times. It is not possible to physically overpower an animal and, hence, the mahouts take mental control over them.’ The bonding between a mahout and elephant increases during bathing. Mostly one elephant is assigned to one mahout till their death," he added.

Veterinarian Boon Allwin said since there is no sweat glands for elephants, they keep fanning their ears, which helps them maintain the body temperature.

"What many people do not know is that elephant actually evolved from marine species. It has a special heart design known as bifit cardiac apex which allows it to pump the blood throughout its huge body," he said.

MUSTH HAI

When it comes to elephants, the first thing that accompanies it is the musth. We will know more about musth and the other sub-adult Asokan in our next article on 4 August.

 

Myth-breakers

* Elephants do not have tear glands. Do not believe when people say elephants are crying in pain. However, they can express what they feel and will communicate it.

* Another misconception about elephants is that they cannot hear well. However, this is another myth as elephants have sharp ears and they can even detect ultrasounds. There are instances when they have even detected the opening of a syringe cover meters away from them, say the vets.

* The ‘track chain’, binding the animal, is to track it down when it is let loose. As opposed to popular belief, the track chain will be very strong.

* Another major highlight of this animal is it's tool-handling capacity, it can throw rocks and sticks.