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She is 105 year old and retired 17 -year ago. Vatsala is the oldest surviving elephant on the earth.  Her name should have entered the Guinness Book of World Records. The female elephant has been in news after reports of deteriorating health conditions in Panna tiger reserve (PTR) , Vatsala’s home.  The director of PTR Uttam Kumar Sharma confirms she is about 105 years old.  thewildlifeindia would want  the state forest department to approach  the Guinness Books to  help Vatsala create a world record . For the last several days she had stopped eating and was unwell, said PTR veterinarian Dr Sanjeev Gupta. “But now she is improving as she has resumed food intake”, he said.

From Kerala to PTR, it was a Long Journey

The female elephant was shifted to the PTR in 1993 from the Bori reserve forest located in Hoshangabad district. In fact, she was brought to Bori from Kerala’s Nilambur forest in 1971.In 2007, when Shahbaz Ahmed was director of the PTR he had initiated a move to get her birth records from Nilambur.  By the time he retired in 2018 as the Chief Wildlife Warden, the PTR still awaited her birth records. In 1971 when she was brought to MP from Kerala, Vatsala was already about 50 year of age, said Ramzan Khan and Maniram, the two caretakers of Vatsala who had accompanied her from Bori. Ramzan is mahout.  

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Before her retirement, she was being used for patrolling in the jungle among other works for which these heavyweights are deployed.  Maniram ensures that she gets porridge and jaggery  on time . Her food is prepared in the enclosure where she is housed .She gets boiled water to drink so that her digestive system is not affected. For the past few years, she has also developed cataracts in both her eyes and lost vision .Holding her trunk, her caretakers   affectionately take her for a stroll in the jungle.  Though she has lost vision, she recognizes and responds to her caretaker’s calls.

Earlier World Records

Asian elephants can live into their mid-50s. However, a few giants like Vatsala have lived beyond the average age. Lin Wang, an Asian elephant at Taipei Zoo in Taiwan, lived to be 86. At the time of his death in 2003, he held the Guinness World Record for being the oldest elephant in captivity, elephant.com reported in April 2019. Chengalloor Dakshayani  (1930 – February 5, 2019) was a female Asian elephant owned by Travancore Devaswom Board and kept at the Chenkalloor Mahadeva Temple in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.  She was 88 when she died on February 5, 2019. 

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The Travancore royal family bought the elephant calf at Kodanad elephant camp near Ernakulum, and donated her to their Thiruvarattu Kavu temple at Attingal in 1949. The state forest department registered her age as 76 on July 18, 2007. In 2016, when she became the oldest known elephant in Asia, the Board applied to Guinness World Records to have her recorded as the oldest elephant in captivity, a record previously held by Lin Wang of the Taipei Zoo, who died in 2003 at the age of 86. It means, Vatsala has already created a new record. 

Pic: Vatsala , Courtesy Panna Tiger Reserve

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