A Sunday with elephants

My friend Raju Khan informed over phone that his female elephant “Jone” performing tourism duty in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has a swollen foreleg. There was no known history of injury. The park was just opened for tourists on 2nd of Oct. and the fields were still muddy. I thought it could be a “picked up thorn” piercing her foot from the bottom in the mud and as he examined her leg, he saw a small hole at the bottom of the sole, near the middle toe nail. I suggested to get her Tetanus prophylaxis immediately and get the injury examined by a vet for any embedded foreign body. Raju later told me that the Vet only administered an antibiotic and did not advance to check her foot. So, I decided to undertake a trip to KNP the next day, i.e. on 19.10.2017 which happened to be a Sunday.

The drive to KNP is about 220 km and on our way, Raju told me that he saw another female elephant near KNP by the road the previous day with an abscess over the middle toenail of one of the hind leg. Incidentally we met the cow, named “Champa”. She was around 50 and appeared weak. She was lame because of the foot condition and was probably not getting enough to eat, as her movements were restricted by the painful leg. She was brought for the tourism duty but as the park vet rejected her for the disease and she was just dumped. I offered her some fruits and then commandeered the cow to a lateral recumbency by the side of the road and examined her foot.

There was a sinus connecting an abscess over the toenail, the abscess apparently developed due to a punctured wound and a foreign body carrying infection to deeper and sensitive tissues. I debrided the necrotic tissues from the solar approach and cleared the passage for drainage, applied sterile gauze dipped in tincture of iodine and prescribed an antibiotic. I did not find any foreign body. The condition appeared to be curable, but will need regular antiseptic dressing and antibiotic treatment. Will they do it? And what about the likely thorn, is it still there deeply embedded into tissues or did it drop out? Probably an X-ray would tell, but how to get it done?

Then we went to the Bagori range camp of KNP, where Jone was stationed. Her stance was indicative of a lame left foreleg, which was moderately swollen. After patting her and offering some sweet fruits I made her lie down. As I approached to examine her injured leg, she began to move it sideways, back and forth. I understood it was painful, so decided to administer anaesthesia. As she was anaesthetized I prepared the area (just under the middle toe, 2-3 inches into the solar pad) for a reasonably clean surgery by washing with potassium permanganate solution and then with povidone iodine.

After administering some local anesthetics, I examined the hole which was very small, I widened it, explored the cavity and as suspected found a small piece half churned piece of hard grass, about an inch in length. After removing the same, further exploration did not reveal any more part of it. I irrigated the cavity with Hydrogen peroxide and administered a course of antibiotics.

Meanwhile the other elephant of the camp, Rangili also arrived. I also made her to lie down and trimmed the elongated toe-nails and treated her abraded neck, injured by the neck rope. Both the elephants received shots of vitamins and essential minerals.

After completing here, I went to visit Kalita’s camp, where 8 elephants are kept. Since my visit was not announced, only one elephant, (She was also another Champa-40yrs) was there, she just returned from grazing and for fetching their fodder. She developed a nasty pododermatitis condition known here as Karry, which I trimmed to expose the infections and then applied antiseptics. Prescribed 5% formaline for a regular foot bath.

This year 42 privately owned captive elephants have come to the tourism fields of KNP. They will be kept here till May-June, 2018. I know most of them will have medical problems, they need to be attended, dewormed, vaccinated and foot care administered. Handlers also required to be educated how to keep the elephants clean and fed in the conditions alien to their own places.

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Health camp at Orang National park

I organized a fringe area livestock vaccination and camp elephant treatment camp for 3 days in Orang National Park, from 29th of April till 1st of May, 2017. Nine of my colleagues, PG students and internees accompanied me to render their services in the camp. We visited door to door in the evenings and early mornings to vaccinate the livestock: cattle and buffaloes and covered as many as five villages on the northern fringe of the park. These animals have potential to spread diseases to the wildlife of the park, so it is necessary to immunize them against the infectious diseases that also affect wild hoovestock. We vaccinated them against Haemorrhagic  septicaemia  (HS) and Black quarter (BQ), two dreaded bacterial diseases, that cause huge economic loss to the poor farmers, which may lead some of them to look towards the park for sustenance: firewood, and in worst case scenario, connive with poachers.

During the daytime, on 30th April and 1st of May I conducted the routine health checkup camps for the camp elephants of the park. On 30th we held two camps; one at the Range office premises and the other at Nichlamari in which 5 and 12 elephants were presented for examination and treatment.  Second day a mega camp was organized at Saat simalu where some 20 elephants were presented. We carried out fecal examination of all the elephants on the spot and collected venous blood samples for haematological, biochemical and blood parasitic examinations back in my institutions. All the elephants received anthelmintic medication as per findings of the stool examination, vaccination against HS and BQ, Restorative supports like Vit-Min mixtures, B-Complex and inorganic phosphorus supplimentations. Two tuskers namely Arjun and Chakraddhaj were sedated for trimming of their convergent tusks that were causing impediments in freeing their trunks. The feet of all the animals were examined closely and pedicure provided when necessary.

Another objective of the camp was to provide hands on training to the new generation of vets that appeared to have motivated for wildlife healthcare. It was a successful program.

-KK Sarma

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Vaccination clinic at Laokhow-Burhachapori

The Laokhow-Burhachapori camp was a grand success. We vaccinated nearly 3000 livestock against dreaded bacterial diseases namely Haemorrghagic septicaemia and Black quarter. These diseases can potentially spread to precious wild animals with whom they share the grazing fields. The two camp elephants Vikram and Jontora were also attended,clinically examined, vaccine administered and dewormed appropriately.
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Dr. KK Sarma is featured in a new book

Wild Lives: Leading Conservationists on The Animals and the Planet They Love is a new book featuring a chapter about Dr. Sarma and his work with Asian elephants.

See the details here:


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Health Clinic In Nameri National Park

Nameri is a National park of about 200 sq. km in the foot hills of Arunachal Pradesh, famous for wild elephants, tiger, wild bison and white winged wood duck, the state bird of Assam. It is on the bank of Jia-bhoreli river and is known as a bird paradise. Trekking and rafting here is exciting. Nameri National Park has 15 camp elephants, which I attended for a preemptive health camp on April 1-2. Mr. Pankaj Sharma is the District Forest Officer.

-KK Sarma
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Temple Elephants

One of Dr. Sarma’s interests is the health and welfare of temple elephants throughout India. Here we see KK receiving a blessing from an elephant in Jaipur.


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Manas National Park Elephant Clinic

Manas National Park in the northern Assam bordering Bhutan is a 500 square KM pristine forest, is a world Heritage site and is famous for its magnificent biodiversity. The forest changes from dry-deciduous to moist-evergreen in a span of just 20 km is the home to all charismatic big-5: Elephant, Great Indian one horned Rhino, Bengal tiger, Wild buffalo and gaur, besides Himalayan Black bear, Sambar, eastern swamp deer, sheetal, hog deer, dhole, pigmy hog, leopard, golden langoor, Bengal florican, horn beel and many other. There are at present 43 camp elephants patrolling this precious park from poachers. They are spread over three ranges, namely Bhuyanpara, Bansbari and Panbari. The camp elephants have their share of problems including medical problems like parasitism, infectious diseases and injuries.

I have over 35 years of contact with this park, I used my experiences of anaesthetic management of the camp elephants of this park for my PhD dissertation. I have seen rare diseases like tetanus, rabies and cobboldiasis in this camp besides routine parasitic infestations, dental pulp injuries, farra gall and foot affections. From last year the park has witnessed death of young elephant caves (wild) suspected to be EEHV (elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus) infections. For all these reasons I organize pre-emptive health camps for the camp elephants at least 4 times a year; where every elephant is individually examined and appropriate remedial and/or preventive medications administered. We vaccinated all 42 elephants on 24-25th of March, 2017 against dreaded rabies, dewormed as per their parasitic load, foot care administered and trained the handlers on the pedicure techniques and vit-mineral mixture distributed. Blood and urine samples of the elephants were collected for laboratory examinations for preparation of database and/or appropriate remedies.

– KK Sarma

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Dr. K.K. Sarma visits Orang National Park in Assam

Dr. K.K. Sarma visited Orang National Park in Assam, India in October of 2015 to provide preventive veterinary care for the park’s team of captive elephants.  De-worming medication, health checks, and nutritional supplements and vaccinationThe twinss were provided.  In addition to ongoing veterinary support, these elephants have access to plentiful natural forage, clean water, and great care from committed mahouts.   The recipients of Dr. Sarma’s treatment included these twins, one of only three known pairs. Over thirty elephants were treated, including a newborn calf.


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