In the end, Mother Nature did what man could not bring himself to do. Arundhati, an 80-year-old elephant who suffered multiple fractures of her ankle, died in her sleep, several days after a public outcry persuaded officials not to put her down.
Vets had recommended that the animal, who was injured when she fell into a swamp last month at a game reserve in northern India, be put to sleep. But the outcry – including a tear-stained plea from her mahout or keeper – persuaded officials at the Rajaji Park to let experts have one last try at healing her.
Though animal activists claimed the authorities were not doing enough to save the animal, vets said that in the past few days there was no sign of any improvement and Arundhati stopped eating. Seeing that she was in increasing pain, officials again prepared to put her down. Instead, she died in her sleep.
"Arundhati was undergoing intense pain and agony. At least with death she is relieved of that pain," said B S Barafat, a senior forestry official at the park.
Arundhati was the largest and oldest of five domesticated elephants that took tourists inside the national park. She slipped and fell two weeks ago and park officials struggled to retrieve her from the swamp. "It was a very difficult task to retrieve a big animal like her but we managed it. Then, we discovered that she had multiple fractures on her right foot. She has been unable to stand since then," said the park's director, G S Pandey.
Her keeper, Zahoor Khan, had sat with the elephant trying whatever he could to try and heal her. Every avenue was explored, including alternative medicine.