1.) How old do you think Sidda is?
Sidda is a young bull elephant, whose estimated age is 35 years.
2.) How is working with a wild elephant different from a captive or domesticated elephant?
Captive or domesticated elephants are accustomed to human presence and human touch, while wild elephants are generally wary of human beings. This can make it both stressful and difficult to treat a wild elephant. In addition, the problems and ailments for which a wild elephant requires treatment are generally quite different from those of captive elephants, and pose a new challenge to the vet.
3.) Tell us a little bit about Sidda’s injuries.
Sidda had fallen into a ditch and the brutal impact of this fall had resulted in a fracture in his right forelimb. In addition to having a broken leg; Sidda had sustained abrasions on his all over his body and there is an abscess on his back which requires treatment.
As he has been down on his side for a fortnight, he has developed sores on his left flank. We have also detected pus formation around the fractured wound and we are currently in the process of draining and treating the infected area.
4.) What are you doing to control the pain?
We have been administering painkillers to help ease his pain and anti-inflammatory medication for the swelling and the infection in Sidda’s leg. We enlisted the help of the army to build a structure to help support him, thus enabling him to stand on his own and avoid him collapsing.
5.) Explain the design of the structure and how it is helping Sidda.
The structure is a metal frame (20 length x 13 width x 15 height) designed specifically for Sidda consisting of weight bearing pulleys and specially designed harness belts to keep the elephant suspended. A secondary support structure like a cradle has also been installed to lift him up and ease the stress on his limbs. The main pulley is fitted on the roof of the metal structure and the additional cradle supports run from the side walls of the metal structure. The structure was designed and created keeping in mind the safety & positioning of the animal and measures to prevent him from circling inside the metal structure. It was also necessary to take into consideration, adequate workspace for us to deal with wounds and access sites for intramuscular injections.
It is important to have him in an erect position to carry out routine check-ups, provide intensive treatment for his wounds and feed him with ease. We have taken careful measures to ensure that Sidda does not come in direct contact with the metal frames, therefore reducing the chances of him accidentally hurting himself. In order to do so, we have placed two layers of wooden beams adjacent to the metal structure and lined the frame with soft bedding materials.
We have placed the harnesses around his injured leg and torso to keep him in an upright position which will not only help take the pressure of his ruptured foreleg but will also prevent him falling or collapsing, which could cause his organs to collapse. This will enable us to access him safely and at the same time, he will remain comfortable.
6.) What are your estimates in terms of how long it will take to get Sidda healed? Would he be able to return to the wild?
It is still quite early to predict how long Sidda will take to heal as when we first started out with his treatment he was in a critical condition. His being able to return safely to the wild depends on the extent of his fracture and injuries and the rate at which he will heal, which can take anything from a few weeks to over six months.
We are currently monitoring his health and starting with intensive treatment. His chances of survival and recovery depend on his body condition that has deteriorated terribly over the last few weeks. However, we will do everything we can to provide the best possible treatment and will pray that he continues to show signs of recovery.
7.) Do elephants often break legs in the wild, or is this a rare event?
Yes, wild elephants are also prone to suffering from leg fractures though such incidents are quite rare. A higher number of cases are reported of captive elephants breaking their legs.
8.) Tell us about the area, are there many wild elephants?
The locals residing in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka are no strangers to wild elephants as the area is situated close to Savandurga reserve, an adjoining forest of Bannerghatta National Park (330 sq km). The area expands across 6,800 acres of reserve forest and this is home to a known population of about 8 wild elephants.
9.) Tell us about the type of fracture he has
So far, the X-rays haven’t given the clearest of images and this can make diagnosis difficult, but we suspect a supra-condular fracture of the radius – ulna, which may involve the elbow joint.