Project #9531

Adopt An Elephant Calf

by Wildlife Trust of India
Philip resting his hind leg.
Philip resting his hind leg.

Philip Dev is now 21 months old now and is the elephantine equivalent of a toddler. As he grows older he is losing his signature Mohawk hairdo but his antics still have his caregivers in splits. His excitement at the sight of his milk bottle is as great as ever and he will swing his trunk, wave his head to and fro and even push Rani and Nunai out of the way, just like an unruly child in the playground. There is no centre maintenance activity that the keepers can apply themselves to without an interested Philip jostling his way into the centre of action and sticking his trunk in.

But, the elephant calf with the most personality is still Nunai – the youngest one of the trio. She goes almost hysterical with joy at the sight of water, be it in a pond, a paddling pool, the drinking trough, a bucket, or even a trickle out of faulty faucet! There was one incident recently that the vet told us about where the trio had reached the indoor nursery before the keeper, but since the door was latched they could go into their rooms. Nunai found the coiled hosepipe that is used to wash down the nursery every day. She followed the coils to the tap and somehow managed to turn it on. When the keeper arrived, she was happily waving the hose in the air with water gushing out over all three of them, and Rani and Philip looked distinctly unhappy at the unexpected drenching.

Philip now has 21 liters of milk in 6 feeds in 24 hours – 4 feeds during the day and 2 at night, each feed consisting of 3.5 liters of reconstituted formula milk powder.  At sundown, Philip, Rani and Nunai are brought into the indoor nursery as it is too cold for them to be out in the open. They have small rooms where each one is separately housed but can reach out with their trunks and touch each other over the partitioning walls. The rooms have fresh grass and water placed so the calves can nibble through the evening and night. Philip and Nunai will lie down on their side and sleep, but Rani is taller and prefers to sleep standing up leaning against a wall or a sloping surface. In the wild, adult elephants sleep on their feet while the young ones will lie down in the middle of the herd where they are secure.

Philip recently developed a toenail infection that was painful for him, so the vets performed a minor procedure where he was anesthetized and his toenails cleaned and trimmed. His feet were bandaged for a few days after that. He is now perfectly well and the infected toenails have healed. Otherwise, the calves are doing well now and Philip is steadily putting on the weight he had lost during his illness. The fibrotic growth at his left front knee is disturbingly prominent even if harmless, and the vets are keeping a close eye on it and will take action if it starts to interfere with his gait.

Philip, Rani and Nunai have another 2 years or so at CWRC before they are moved to Manas National Park for the second phase. Seeing these young ones at play in the security of CWRC, it is daunting to think of them as adult independent elephants in the wilds of Manas, but that is what we eventually hope to achieve with your support – give these young ones the dignity and freedom of a wild elephant.

(L-R) Jaklabanda, Nunai, Rani  and Philip at CWRC.
(L-R) Jaklabanda, Nunai, Rani and Philip at CWRC.
(L-R) NunaI and Philip taking an afternoon nap.
(L-R) NunaI and Philip taking an afternoon nap.
Philip with his toes wrapped up after procedure.
Philip with his toes wrapped up after procedure.


Philip (left) with Rani - playtime at CWRC.
Philip (left) with Rani - playtime at CWRC.

Philip is now a year and a half old and almost halfway through the first stage of rehabilitation – handraising. Cocooned in the care of the keepers and vets, he spends his days in the company of Rani and Nunai in the sprawling grounds of CWRC.

CWRC - the rescue center that for Philip knows as home is a joint venture of the Assam Forest Department and IFAW-WTI. It was established with the support of the Animal Welfare Division, Govt. of India and is one of the few rescue centres recognized by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

Celebrating its tenth year now, CWRC was established in 2002 with the primary aim to stabilize displaced and orphaned wild animals, provide medical treatment if necessary, and release them back in the wild. The outreach of CWRC also dovetails into various wildlife health support activities including disease investigation, captive elephant care and immunization. Spread over 14.5 acres, CWRC has essential veterinary infrastructure including an examination room, a theatre for surgery and an evolving disease investigation laboratory. It also has spacious holding shelters to accommodate birds, reptiles, ungulates, primates, and big cats as well as nurseries for elephants and rhinos and small animals. The centre and its satellite units have handled more than 3000 cases since its inception in 2002.

Philip, Rani, and Nunai spend a part of their day in the mega-herbivore outdoor nursery. This is a 2500 sq feet open grassy area that they play in and explore every day. This is also where they receive their daily milk feeds, multigrain supplements, fruits, fodder etc. During the day, they are also then taken to other parts of the campus which have enough wild vegetation for them to nibble on and also a small play pond to splash around in.

All the calves are examined daily by the resident vets and occasionally, vets from the Guwahati College of Veterinary Sciences are called in to examine them, should the need arise as it did a few months ago when Philip had lost some weight. The vets determined that a parasitic infestation was the cause and he was dewormed ahead of schedule. Since then his stools have been examined regularly in the lab and have shown a negative parasitic load. He is now feeding well and is being given extra milk feeds to help him regain lost weight.

Another task that Philip’s caregivers have is to peer inside his mouth every day! His tusks are still in the process of erupting and the keeper has to make sure they are doing so normally. While earlier there was just an area of hardness in the gums, now one can see the glint of white below the tissues.

Ever the prankster, Philip retains his love for untying bootlaces but rarely has the opportunity these days as everyone wears gumboots because of the rains. Recently, another of our older resident elephant calves – Tora – tried to muscle her way in during Rani and Nunai’s milk feed when Philip, having already finished his feed, had wandered off. Tora started to push Rani and Nunai aside to get at the bottle and that was when Philip came charging back to push Tora away. This is the first time Philip has displayed protective instincts and is a good sign to see that the calves are watching out for each other just as they would as part of a wild herd.

Philip, Rani and Nunai have never been taken beyond the centre limits as they are too young to expose to the dangers of the jungle. That time will come in another year’s time when they are weaned and their daily walks with the keeper has them venturing into the surrounding Panbari Reserve Forest for their first taste of the wild.

During all the stages of rehab, human contact is kept as minimal as possible to discourage imprinting. It is only the privileged few caregivers who actually get close to the calves. The rare visitor to the centre watches the calves from a distance and always from behind a screen so as to be unseen. All of these precautions are necessary to ensure a successful rehabilitation back in the wild and we have to thank you giving us the privilege of being able to care for these endearing young ones while they grow.

The IFAW-WTI rescue team at CWRC
The IFAW-WTI rescue team at CWRC
Philip(L), Rani & Nunai on way to the evening feed
Philip(L), Rani & Nunai on way to the evening feed
Philip Dev (front) with Rani and Nunai in CWRC.
Philip Dev (front) with Rani and Nunai in CWRC.

Philip Dev, now a sturdy 15-month old is, as always, the most feisty of the group of young elephant calves at CWRC. You can always find him rushing to the keeper at feeding time, enthusiastically tossing of his head and trunk and sometimes even pushing Rani and Nunai out of the way in his hurry to be first in the line for the bottle. He is not very fond of baths in the playpond but will still good-naturedly tolerate the dunkings that Nunai subjects him to.

Another important happening is that Philip’s tusks have just started to erupt and he is to be a tusker! Unlike African elephants, only a very small proportion of male Asian elephants have tusks and this makes Philip even more special for us.

Philip has also grown taller by 2 cm from the last time he was measured and comparing him and his playmates, Rani and Philip are the same height while little Nunai is 1 cm shy of being a meter tall.
Philip Dev’s measurements
Chest girth: 150 cm;  Shoulder height: 106 cm;  Body length: 148 cm

Two months ago, Philip had developed a lump in his left foreleg. Initially thought to be an abscess or a tumor, the veterinarians from Guwahati Veterinary College later diagnosed this to be a harmless fibroid mass that would need surgical intervention only if it started to affect his gait.

The rains have not been a very comfortable time for the young calves at CWRC with waterborne infections taking its toll and Philip was also ill for a while along with the rest of the calves. He is much better now after medications with recent stool tests showing a negative parasitic load.

It was also noticed that Philip had been losing a little weight even though his milk and grass intake was normal, perhaps due to the eruption of tusks. As a precaution, he has been having special supervision by one of the animal keepers during the day who keeps watch over him and monitors his intake of grass and milk - much like a mother making sure of the child’s nutritional intake.

Now that the worst of the rains is over, Philip and his friends are starting to go back to their old routine with mostly spending time outdoors.

We are very grateful for the generosity of kind hearted people such as you that enables the field teams in Assam to carry on this crucial task of caring for orphaned elephant calves and giving them a chance to live a life of freedom and dignity in the wild.

Philip tugging at keeper
Philip tugging at keeper's arm for the bottle.
L-R Rani, Nunai & Philip in their playpond
L-R Rani, Nunai & Philip in their playpond
Philip Dev - one year old
Philip Dev - one year old

It has been a year since Philip Dev was admitted to CWRC for long-term care and rehabilitation and it brings me great pleasure to update you on his progress through the last few months. But first, let me take this opportunity to be thankful for the presence of this little soul and his quirky ways and also to thank all the wonderful people who have repeatedly gone out of their way to help this little soul and  others like him. I’d like to extend a special thank you to all the veterinarians and keepers involved in Philip’s care and a big thank you to You for your extensive generosity and goodwill. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Philip has today crossed 13 months of age and is the oldest of the group of the little calves. He remains the hairiest of the lot with his Mohawk as distinct as ever. The calves were all measured a month ago and Rani, who is slightly younger than Philip, turned out to be marginally taller than him.

Phillip’s measurements 
Chest girth: 155 cm
Shoulder height: 104 cm
Body length: 136 cm

Philip is still on 9 milk feeds a day, and unlike the other younger calves, he enjoys nibbling on a bit of the concentrate feed which mostly contains rice, jaggery, various lentils, soya and some salts. The little charmer has also ingeniously learned to untie shoelaces and seems to be obsessed with it!

Much to Philip’s relief, the calves haven’t been taken for baths in their play-pond as the water had all dried up. Instead, they have had to make do with a luxurious spray of the hose, which Philip quite enjoys. Showers, too, have been infrequent because of the weather. The calves only get a shower on good, pleasant, sunny days. Unfortunately, as it has rained in lot in the past few weeks, the younger calves have missed out on frequent baths and have even had to spend some time indoors.

The month of April was very worrying for our team as many of the calves suddenly fell sick and lost their appetite. Despite having been dewormed recently, subsequent tests indicated a higher parasitic load and the calves responded well to another dose of deworming. Although not as much as the older calves, but Philip too had been unwell and lost a bit of weight in this duration. Thankfully, he is well now, feeding enthusiastically and has returned to his normal playful self.

Philip Dev and his friends
Quite like a matriarch, Philip has been leading the group of the younger calves! Maybe someday, the tables will turn! Rani sticks close to Philip and follows him around like a shadow. Nunai too, weaned off the dependency on her keeper, spends all her time with Philip and Rani. Being quite young themselves, Philip and Rani aren’t completely gentle with her but she doesn’t seem to mind it too much. This cute little one sometimes forgets to follow them and then suddenly realizes she’s been left behind and then trumpets and runs back towards them.

All orphaned under tragic circumstances, these three little calves now form a close knit group and spend their days in play under the care of the rehab team in Assam. Delightful as their presence in CWRC is, we all look forward to the day they take their place in the wild again.

Philip and his playmates
Philip and his playmates
(L to R) Philip, Rani and Lily Nunai
(L to R) Philip, Rani and Lily Nunai
Rani at 6 months old
Rani at 6 months old

Rani Deepor was found stuck in a mud pit and all alone at the tender age of two months. Rani’s herd had come too close to a village and had been chased away by the villagers. The little calf was left behind as a result of this conflict. An attempt was made to reunite her with her herd, which was then moving between Rani Reserve Forest and Deepor Beel, Guwahati, and the calf was kept at Rani Reserve Forest for a couple of days in the hope that the herd might return for her. When all attempts at reuniting had failed, she was shifted to Guwahati Zoo for immediate care. A week later, on the 18th of Sep 2011, the calf was shifted to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) for hand-raising and rehabilitation.

Admitted with only minor health problems, like an upset tummy due to drastic changes in food, she recovered in no time and adjusted well to the new feeding regime. Tenderly cared for by her keeper, Raju, it didn’t take her long to settle down and mingle with the other calves at the centre.

An ever inquisitive calf, Rani always has her ears splayed out in anticipation and watches all activities with her big bulging eyes. Also noticeable, is a teeny hole to the far end of the left ear. Rani is very communicative and especially vocal during her feeds. Absolutely impatient during feed times, she trumpets loudly if her bottle is delayed by even a few minutes.

Rani’s first friend and playmate at the centre was Philip Dev. Rani and Philip took to each other right from the start and have followed each other around like shadows ever since. Philip, being naughtier than her, often leads Rani to mischief. Much like Philip, Rani too doesn’t enjoy playing in the play pond yet. Although Philip always finds his way out, Rani just stays put, obediently waiting to hear, “Play time’s up!” so she can rush back to the enclosure.

We look forward to keeping you updated on Rani Deepor’s growth and progress!

Rani and Philip - playmates & partners in mischief
Rani and Philip - playmates & partners in mischief
Rani being reassured by Junmoni
Rani being reassured by Junmoni
Rani in the play pond with the other calves
Rani in the play pond with the other calves
Rani scratching her back
Rani scratching her back

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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Leena Fernandez
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India

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