Live Life Jumbo Size!
For the last 32 years, Dr Kushal Konwar Sarma hasn’t taken a single weekend off. Given the moniker of the Elephant Doctor of India, he has been working with more than 700 jumbos, both wild and rogue bulls, every year.
He became a vet in 1983, obtained his master’s degree in 1986, completed his PhD in veterinary surgery, and specialised in anaesthesia in elephants by 1994. He is the pioneer of the remote tranquilising injection technique in the North East.
From tranquilising and capturing 139 rogue jumbos to rescuing and treating hundreds of captive and injured elephants over the years, Dr Sarma has contributed to the conservation of the Asian Elephants in India. Notably, he holds a world record for this feat.
Asian elephants are the continent’s largest terrestrial mammals. They can reach 6.4m in length and 3m at the shoulder, and weigh as much as five tonnes. Bull elephants can go on a killing rampage, causing damage to properties in musth.
Musth (meaning ‘intoxicated’ in Hindi) is a period in rogue bull elephants when they display highly aggressive behaviour and an increase in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be 60 times greater than in the same creature at other times. This makes even the most placid beast highly violent towards humans and other species during musth.
Even at 60, Dr Sarma is actively working on the field every weekend. He travels East India to manage elephants in various forests and parks under the authority of the respective state government.
In the face of such thrills and chills, what keeps the Elephant Doctor going? He answers, “I don’t look at it as work, but fun. I am happiest when I am near elephants. City life doesn’t make me happy. Even at this moment, if you tell me an elephant is trapped or need of help, I will pack my bags and drive to that location.”
In his final message, he says, “People often ask why we should preserve elephants because they do not plough our fields or give us milk. But I believe elephants are our heritage. They are an umbrella species, instrumental in seed dispersal, guarding our forests. They also promise to show us the solution to cancer due to the p 53 genes that don’t cause cancer in them. Without elephants, forests wouldn’t exist, and without forests, we wouldn’t. India is fortunate to have them.” For more information on things that are doing great work on nature and conservation, join the conversation at Twitter and on Facebook!