The tumultuous journey of a lost elephant has come to a sad conclusion.
According to The New York Times, a fully grown, male Indian elephant became separated from his herd in late June, after getting caught in the high and fast waters of the Brahmaputra River. The animal repeatedly tried to climb out of the river, but was beaten back down by the aggressive waters and villagers armed with stones.
Fighting to stay alive, the exhausted nine-foot, four-ton elephant was pushed an estimated 900 miles downstream by the river, eventually ending up in Bangladesh. Here, the pachyderm was able to get back on land, trudging through the swampy terrain of the country. The elephant’s aimless journey soon attracted the attention of villagers and news teams, who trailed the animal but didn’t help him.
On Thursday, officials tranquilized the animal and moved him to dry land. But instead of helping the ailing elephant, locals chained up the animal in a muddy field and crowded around him to gawk and take pictures. Some even decided to sell snacks to onlookers, turning the animal’s plight into profit. Eventually, the elephant broke free, only to be subdued and tied up once more.
“It was not our plan to dart him, but the situation bound us,” said Tapan Kumar Dey, chief executive of Bangladesh’s Nature Conservation Society, explaining that veterinarians were worried the animal would harm villagers and their property.
After fighting for his life for months, the elephant died on Tuesday of a heart attack. Veterinarians who examined the elephant before and after death believe the fatal attack was caused by an extended period of stress, heat and humidity, and that he was also suffering from pneumonia and heat stroke.
Before the elephant’s death, a team of veterinarians and professionals were sent from India to work on bringing the animal back to the country. Having gained a news following in both Bangladesh and India, possession of the elephant quickly became an issue.
“Our media created a havoc for us,” said K. K. Sarma, a government veterinary surgeon from India, whose team was sent by the Indian government to advise Bangladesh on how best to handle the elephant. “In Bangladesh, the media was asking us, ‘Under what international act have you come to take the elephant to India?’ “
The team hoped to use domesticated elephants to lead their wild counterpart to a main road, where he could be loaded in a truck and driven back to India, but Sarma and his delegation had to leave three days after arriving due to security threats.
After the team’s departure, veterinarians tried to treat the elephant, giving him three gallons of saline through an IV, but sadly the effort was too little, too late.