The Mystery Orphan, Part 2 – Desperate Measures

By Ashoka Ranjeewa

– January 28th 2011, 3:45 PM –

Top photo shows Rani and her calf in 2007, while the bottom shows the same calf in 2009. We wondered if Rani might be the mother of the newborn since her last calf was getting quite big.

The distance between Rani & the calf narrowed to 20m and soon they were moving parallel to each other. The calf was trying to nurse from the subadult female while continuing to vocalize loudly. But Rani didn’t come to the calf, nor did the subadult female take the calf to Rani. With time, the distance between Rani & the newborn increased again. Meanwhile Rani, Fat-tail & Right-hole all fed their own  calves. The group was now moving quite briskly, possibly because the grass was very short in that area. The calf was still keeping up, but shakily.

The group then reached an open area where lots of fresh grass was available.  They stopped moving and fanned out 80m while grazing. The most peripheral individual was Rani. While everyone was busy grazing, Right-hole’s calf, who was about 4 months old, came up to the newborn and started trying to play with her. The latter was so weak, she fell on the ground and was trampled by other youngster. Suddenly, Fat-tail and a juvenile rushed over.  Fat-tail gently separated the two by bending her head down. The little newborn went to the juvenile while Right-hole’s calf slowly moved toward its mother.

Time was ticking fast and it was about 5:30 pm. The baby hadn’t received nourishment for two and half hours. She tried her luck repeatedly with the two juveniles and the subadult who was attending to it before starting to vocalize again. It gave about 15 consecutive bark-rumbles, all the time trying to nurse from her babysitter.  But the latter could do nothing but continue grazing, though Fat-tail again moved toward the newborn.

The newborn started calling even more loudly than before, now leaving behind the teenager and the rest of the group to strike off on her own. There was a small hill and patch of shrubs beyond the group so I thought that perhaps now, at last, the mother of calf must have come. Since I couldn’t see anything, we drove quickly to that peak. There was no one.

The teenaged female went into a panic, giving rumbles and growls, tail erect and ears flapping rapidly. Once again, Fat-tail rapidly moved to head off the desperate newborn before it went too far, followed by her own calf as well as Right-hole and the others.  All except Rani clustered around the newborn and growled together. Rani didn’t come to group, instead leisurely browsing a tree about 70m away. Now there was lots of noise and I even heard two longroar-rumbles from afar. But after a few minutes, all settled down once more and tried to resume grazing.

Predictably, the newborn stared calling again, this time louder than ever.  Now she was running full-tilt back toward where they had come from, determinedly passing everyone else in the group but heading in the opposite direction.  At this, the teenager ran towards the newborn, giving a big trunk-bounce (this is a loud noise produced by hitting the trunk on the ground that is typically given as a threat or warning). Remarkably, the newborn stopped dead in its tracks; both calf and caretaker froze. But within seconds the newborn was at it again, running and bark-rumbling. Again the teenager rushed just in front of her and thumped the ground sharply. And again, the little one froze. But she would not be put off, within few minutes she was again moving slowly back in the direction they had come from. This time the whole group (except Rani) followed the newborn calf moving about for about 50m in this manner. It was clearly quite disruptive as no one could do anything in peace with this youngster forever making a dash for it.

Finally Fat-tail approached the newborn and her long-suffering caretaker, blocking the path of the tiny calf. Everyone else stopped. Each time the teenaged female stood still, the calf tried nursing. Fat-tail gently turned the calf around again, changing its course, and started to move toward area they had been attempting to graze earlier, with the teenaged-female trailing along behind. The calf stopped moving and just stood there a few seconds before collapsing to the ground.

To be continued next week with an unexpected turn of events…
To read Part 1 CLICK HERE!

To read Part 3 CLICK HERE!

Advertisements

About asianelephant

Promoting understanding of Asian elephant behavior, evidence-based conservation, and the coexistence of people with wildlife and wilderness.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s