Jaldapara's oldest guard elephant died at 90

KOLKATA: The National Park, with the highest number of rhinos in West Bengal, lost one of its foot soldiers on Sunday.

Madhubala, the park's oldest guard elephant, died in the Moiradanga area early in the morning. She is 90.

Speaking to TOI, state wildlife chief Ravi Kant Sinha said Madhubala had disappeared in the last set of molar teeth recently. He was born in 1930 and was purchased by the forest department some time in 1969-70. He served the park for 50 years, patrolling various areas during his career, and gave birth to eight calves in the park. The park pays tribute to the oldest 50-year-old guard for outstanding, tireless service, he added.

Talking about some of Madhubala's greatest achievements, Sinha said her role was commendable in the rhinoceros vaccine in 1992, when a wild elephant died of anthrax in the park. The park had only 33 rhinos at that time. Since an elephant died of anthrax, we did not want to take any chances and decided to vaccinate the rhinos. Madhubala played a key role as our forests went into vaccination (through darts) of at least 23 rhinos in the park, said the chief wildlife guard. The park, he added, is now home to more than 230 rhinos.

Usually, an elephant is not employed by the department once it turns 65. But Madhubala was required to ride recently following the mysterious death of five rhinos. We have to vaccinate some rhinos after recent deaths, the official said.

According to Sinha, an elephant has six sets of molar teeth. After losing her last set recently, Madhubala couldn't eat, she said.

Madhubala, a source, said it is sometimes used for tourism activities.

Jaldapara has 93 guard elephants while Gorumara and Buxa have 18 and 2 jumbos respectively.

Meanwhile, a male rhino, about 30 years old, was comforted, treated and lived successfully in Jaldapara on Sunday. The rhino was injured while fighting another; it had a deep wound, but an old officer said.