Former Howdah Elephant Balarama falls sick
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Former Howdah Elephant Balarama falls sick

May 5, 2023

Hunsur: Balarama, the 67-year-old former Captain of the Dasara Jumboo Savari elephant squad, who had carried the 750-kg Golden Howdah for a record 14 times has fallen sick due to suspected Tuberculosis (TB) and is said to be critically ill.

A team of veterinarians are treating Balarama at Bheemanakatte Elephant Camp at Hunsur Range in Nagarahole Reserve Forest. Balarama had developed ulcers in his mouth since last 10 days and the vets have suspected that he (Balarama) may be suffering from TB The nature of the disease will be known only after receiving the medical test report.

As Balarama is unable to chew food or drink water, Nagarahole Veterinarian Dr. Ramesh has stayed put with Balarama and is treating him. Following instructions from Nagarahole Tiger Reserve Director Harshakumar Chikkanaragunda, a team of Forest Department staff led by Range Forest Officer (RFO) Rathnakar and Deputy RFO Siddaraju and also Balarama’s mahout Thimma, Kavadi Manjunath and others are taking care of Balarama.

Endoscopy report awaited

As Balarama is critically ill, Veterinarians Dr. Chettiappa, Dr. Madan, Dr. Ramesh and team have examined Balarama. Also, an endoscopy procedure has also been done using a portable machine with the help from Mysore royal family members and the report is awaited. The team of Veterinarians are keeping a round the clock vigil on Balarama besides treating him.

As Balarama is unable to consume solid food, he is being given ragi porridge, ragi balls, banana, watermelon and other soft food. Sources said that Balarama was recovering.

He was shot last year

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It may be recalled that Balarama, who was let out to the adjacent forest to graze at about 9.30 pm on the night of Dec.15 last year was shot. The Forest Department staff heard gun shots and elephant cries (trumpet), following which they went in the direction from where they heard the sound and found Balarama lying injured on the ground.

Further search led them to discover farmer Suresh atop a tree holding a single barrel gun, close to the spot. Forest officials said that Suresh should have fired shots in the air to scare away the jumbo, instead of firing directly at Balarama, causing injuries to him and as such, Suresh was arrested under Wildlife (Protection) Act.

Veterinarian Dr. Ramesh, who had removed about 35 cartridges (Cycle Ball type) from Balarama’s  body and dressed the wounds, used a hand held metal detector to detect the metal balls lodged inside Balarama’s body.

After Balarama recovered, he  was brought back to its camp by Mahouts and Kavadis.

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