Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jumbo calf fitting in at sanctuary

A staff member at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary staff member feeding the calf formulated milk from a bottle yesterday.

3-month-old found near oil palm mill in Jerantut last week

TEMERLOH: BARELY a week ago, a 3-month-old elephant calf was found near an oil palm mill in Jerantut and almost died of starvation after being separated from its herd.

Now, the female calf is adapting to its new surroundings at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in Lanchang, near here, under the watchful eye of its keepers.

Without its mother, the 40kg calf has to be fed specially formulated milk four times daily and is being monitored for any sign of illness.

Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) elephant unit head Nasaruddin Othman said they were initially worried when the calf refused to drink milk on the day it arrived.

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He said it could have been because of stress, but the calf had, since then, developed a bond with its caretakers and began drinking milk from a bottle.

"The first few months are critical and I believe that the calf is slowly adapting to its surroundings.

"Just like us, the elephant calf stays close to its mother for the first couple of months and some continue to drink their mothers' milk for about two years or more.

"The calf is starting to get its first tooth and elephants usually do not eat solid food until they are about four to eight months.

"The formulated milk supplies essential nutrients and so far, the calf appears to be healthy," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

On July 14, a factory supervisor discovered the calf at Felda Lepar Utara 6 and alerted Perhilitan.

The calf was captured and ferried to the sanctuary in a one-tonne lorry.

Nasaruddin said the caretakers would gradually reduce the calf's milk intake and introduce it to solid food.

"Once it is able to consume solid food, we will start feeding it grass, leaves and papayas.

"We will also bring it into the jungle for walks and allow it to mingle with the other elephants at the sanctuary."

Nasaruddin said the calf was believed to be part of a herd of between 15 and 20 elephants.

"It could have lost its way after failing to keep up with the herd or was left behind when the herd fled into the forest.

"Initially, we wanted to leave the calf in the wild, so that it can reunite with its mother, but we were worried that it would end up starving if it was unable to find its herd."

He said once the calf was big enough to take care of itself, it might be released into the forest, adding that the priority now was to ensure that it received food and care.

The calf is the youngest elephant at the sanctuary, which has a total of 30 elephants, aged up to 70.

The oldest is Lokimala, a female elephant that arrived at the sanctuary in 1978 to help in the relocation of wild elephants.

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