Elephants at a complete loss of sight are well aware of the fact that they largely have to depend on their sense of smell for survival. However, when it comes to elephants with partial vision, the equation largely changes as they rely on their sense of partial vision and at the same time grow very wary when introduced to newer settings.
Talking about the story of one such special elephant this month, we bring you the brave and beautiful Kalpana, who has called the Wildlife SOS Field of Dreams her home for almost 2 years now!
Kalpana was rescued in 2019 from the unforgiving streets of a city in Uttar Pradesh where she spent hours walking on blazing tarmac roads. Passers-by sought her blessings and touched her forehead affectionately but none of them could see the pain in her eyes – the white layer that made it difficult for her to see what is right ahead of her, the glaring limp that compromised her grip and, the scars of axe beatings adorning her forehead.
Our worst nightmare stood smirking in front of us when we found Kalpana abandoned and tethered to a tree, dangerously close to an open ditch. She showed signs of severe stereotypic behaviour and trumpeted in discomfort, with her sunken temples telling us clearly that she was not properly fed and severely dehydrated.
Kalpana took timid steps into her new surroundings at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital and was immediately taken for a proper medical assessment. Her preliminary assessment revealed that she was suffering from an ankylosed forelimb, aggravated due to constant exertion and the improper setting of a fracture. Her overgrown toenails were ridden with abscesses and callous formation, leaving us all stunned as to how she was able to walk! An exhausted Kalpana spent her initial days resting and would be spotted napping under the shade.
As she is blind from the right eye, if Kalpana sensed anybody approaching from that side, she was quick to sway her head in fear and anxiety. Our elephant care staff now know to only approach her from the left side so she can see them approaching. She shares a warm bond with her caregiver who never leaves her side and ensures that she is comfortable at all times. Understanding that she has never been in the company of another elephant, we knew her psychological recovery would speed up when she would be introduced to another elephant and well, along came Holly!
Holly suffers from bilateral blindness and was rescued as a begging elephant from Uttar Pradesh. An extremely docile elephant, Holly shares a special bond with Kalpana and the duo is joint at the hip, to say the least. As soon as Holly enters the pool in their enclosure, Kalpana follows and astutely perches herself at the entrance of the pool overlooking her companion, Karma, and Holly as they take a relaxing nap.
Kalpana loves munching on fresh juicy watermelons, melons and pumpkins, and isn’t fussy about her meals. Her love for sugarcane is unmatched and she will be spotted delightfully gorging on succulent sugarcane leaves, as a first, before devouring the stalk!
The edges of their enclosure are covered with soft cushioning in order to prevent Kalpana, Karma and Holly from hurting themselves unintentionally. Even though Kalpana is the closest to Holly, she leaves no opportunity to display her affection for Karma, who she will stand right next to during treatments. Each time Karma is standing too close to the pool in their enclosure, Kalpana will rumble out to Karma, who will move forward until Kalpana stands there. Whenever the trio is together, Kalpana is always careful that her companions, who are both blind, do not suffer any discomfort or are not in harm’s way.
Kalpana’s name translates to “imagination” and hers was always tainted with memories of abuse but today, surrounded by the love and care she rightly deserves, Kalpana is steadily recovering. She continues to receive intensive foot care treatment for her degenerative joint condition and her diet is curated in such a way that there is no additional stress added to her limbs.
You can catch Kalpana’s debut on National Geographic Wild by tuning into India’s Jungle Heroes here!