Bangabahadur leaves villagers in tears | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 17, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:42 AM, August 17, 2016

Bangabahadur leaves villagers in tears

He fought against all odds. He swam over 300km in rivers. He moved frantically from one char to another in the Jamuna (Brahmaputra). He struggled to survive for 50 days.

He even broke free when the department of forests tranquilised and chained him.

But the wild elephant --  Bangabahadur -- died yesterday morning amid efforts of the forest department to rescue him and ship him to a park.

Bangabahadur was tranquilised, chained and half buried in muddy water when it died.

A pall of gloom descended on Koyra and Dhanhata villages in Sharishabari of Jamalpur yesterday morning when the news of his death spread.

Many locals, who had been volunteers in the rescue effort for several days, shed tears, our correspondent reports.

Chamak Vanu, 55, a woman from Dhanhata, where the elephant had been tranquilised and had died, could not eat the entire day after she heard that Bangabahadur was no more.

Some were even more upset.

He was doing well until the officials of the forest department tranquilised him and chained him in the marshy land. Locals were giving him food, said Panjab Ali, 35, of Dhanhata.

"The elephant died as water entered its lungs through its trunk. It had to sleep in the mud. Besides, it was weak," he claimed.

Mustafizur Rahman, assistant veterinary surgeon of Bangabandhu Safari Park, Cox's Bazar, who had been working with the forest officials, said the elephant died of “heart failure”.

He suffered a heart attack and breathed his last at Koyra village around 6:30am, he said.

“There were multiple factors behind the heart attack. Stress, severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance were the main factors,” our Jamalpur correspondent quoted him.

After Bangabahadur collapsed yesterday, a 17-member rescue team of the forest department administered 12 litres of saline and tried to get him up until midnight, Mustafizur said.

Bangabahadur collapsed in the muddy field around 11:30am yesterday.

“Concerned with Bangabahadur's plight, we stayed on the spot and tried to save him until midnight. His temperature was recorded at 101 degrees Celsius whilst their normal body temperature is 97 degrees Celsius,” Mustafizur added.

A team led by Mymensingh Divisional Forest Officer Govindo Ray was heading for the spot and would conduct an autopsy, said wildlife inspector Ashim Kumar Mallick. Samples will be sent to central disease investigation lab in Dhaka, he said.

The elephant was to be buried beside the field where he died, he added.

When Bangabahadur was darted the first time on August 12, he started jumping around and had fallen into a pond.

Later, members of the rescue team with the help of locals took him to a field. He regained consciousness but he was again sedated.

The officials chained him but Bangabahadur broke free and went into a pond and just sat there.

Just after he got out of the pond Sunday morning, the forest officials tranquilised him again.

"We all tried to save Bangabahadur, but could not save him," said Saddam Hossain, one of a few hundred people who helped in the rescue efforts. The elephant spent its last 19 days in this area and Madarganj upazila of Jamalpur.

The forest department was expecting two trained elephant from Kaptai to facilitate the rescue work. "We were planning to take the elephant to Bangabandhu Safari Park, Gazipur, in a truck," said wildlife inspector Mallik, who had been monitoring Bangabahadur for nearly a month.

Even though Bangabahadur was tranquilised for over 24 hours, the forest department could not take him to the park since he was over a kilometre away from the road, where a truck was waiting.

Bangabahadur got separated from his herd and entered Bangladesh floating on the Brahmaputra river in late June. He was moving frantically from one char to another.

He went to more than 40 chars in Kurigram, Gaibandha, Bogra, Sirajganj and Jamalpur districts. Initially, the locals drove him away as he had damaged a few houses. 

Later, the forest department formed a 17-member committee comprising forest officials and three veterinary surgeons. The committee followed Bangabahadur for a month.

As Bangladesh informed India about the matter, a three-member Indian team reached Bangladesh on August 3. A joint rescue team then followed him around but they did not get a good opportunity to tranquilise him, said forest officials.

The Indian team stayed in Bangladesh for three days and left on August 7.

High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla yesterday thanked the government, ministries concerned and the villagers for their support and help in looking after Bangabahadur, reports our diplomatic correspondent.

“We are really grateful … we can't expect anything more. We are sorry that the elephant died,” he told reporters after his meeting with the foreign secretary yesterday.

Bangabahadur's origins were not known but the wildlife team from India had opined that given his complete lack of familiarity with humans, the elephant was likely to be from Kaziranga or even Arunachal Pradesh.

“This means he floated down an incredible 1,500kms! Over the last month and a half, he has been steadily heading north over five districts of Bangladesh towards India,” the high commissioner had said earlier.

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