Last Monday, residents of Gaida Chok in the touristy village of Sauraha, Chitwan woke up to the high pitched trumpeting of Srijana Kali, a 38-year-old elephant in the throes of labour. Blinded by the pain searing through her body, the soon-to-be mother elephant screamed louder as she tried to break free from the shackles that held her powerful legs. The mahout tried to calm her down, unsuccessfully.
After nearly 48 hours, Srijana delivered a healthy baby boy on the afternoon of 6 January. When the mahouts rushed to pull the baby out and cut off the umblical cord, she shooed them away with a protective cry and pulled the newborn lovingly towards her with her trunk. Within an hour, the frisky calf was already trying to stand up on his tiny legs.
“It was a memorable day for all of us because privately raised elephants in Sauraha have rarely delivered a healthy baby,” says Dhruba Giri of Sapana Village Lodge, who bought Srijana in 2012 from Golaghar Resort in Meghauli when she was already nine months pregnant.
Elephants have a lengthy gestation period ranging from 22 to 24 months where they require more rest and better diet. Taking care of an expectant elephant costs about Rs 70,000 per month and since she cannot be used for safaris, resorts lose out on business. Hence most owners don’t want their female elephants becoming pregnant. Srijana, who was impregnated by the notorious wild elephant Dhrube, is only the second privately-owned elephant in the village to become a mother in a long time. Her baby will be named after the nwaran ceremony this week.
“For us, elephants are gods and the newborn is a good omen,” says Giri. “We will give Srijana the best possible care and let her recover completely.”