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The lights fade on Bijlee

Bijlee, the 54-year-old elephant, who had found her way into the hearts of Mumbaikars after being found abandoned on a road, breathed her last on Sunday morning.

Bijlee
Final goodbyes: Locals and animal lovers honour and pay respects to Bijlee, the elephant, before the body was buried at an undisclosed location. Pic/Siddharth Dhadve

At 5.58 am, the elephant expired at Mulund despite the best efforts of many veterinarians and animal activists. Animal activist Pawan Sharma, co-ordinator, Resquink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) said, “Everyone tried their level best to save the animal but she had stopped eating the last two days, causing her health to deteriorate further and on the wee hours of Sunday, Bijlee passed away.”

He added, “The High Court has banned using elephants for entertainment purposes but they are still used by mahouts. Taking note of what happened to Bijlee, the forest department should take steps to ensure that this does not occur again.”

And while animal activists mourned the news of the passing, Bijlee’s body was buried in an undisclosed location so as to avoid poachers from stealing parts of the body while the tusks were disposed off and the vital organs have been preserved so as to carry out medical tests. Thane Range Forest Officer (RFO) Anil Todarmal said, “The panchnama and post-mortem were carried out by doctors. We have taken a video of the entire process, so that it can be used in the future, if needed.”

Animal activists have now demanded that the authorities set up a rescue and rehabilitation centre for elephants in the state. Krishna Tiwari, a wildlife expert said, “The elephants in Maharashtra are brought from states such as Kerala, Bihar and Jharkhand. However, in a state like Kerala, if the animal is unwell it can be left at a rescue centre. We, on the other hand, do not have any rescue centre for these poor elephants. There is an urgent need of these centres in order to provide the animals their life.”

Sunish Subramanian Kanju from Plants and Animal Welfare society (PAWS) said, “On June 18, I had registered a complaint against the owner of the elephant that the animal was being used for commercial purposes, which is violation of the law but till date the forest department and police officials are yet to take action against the owner of the animal. Elephants are a schedule-1 animal and her life could have been saved if the forest department could have taken her in their custody and shifted her to a proper veterinary hospital.”

Bijlee, the elephant
The ailing elephant had collapsed on the busy Mulund-Bhandup Link Road allegedly abandoned by her owners. For over a fortnight, Bijlee had been kept strapped on a crane as she could not stand or sit due to weak hind leg bones. She was suffering from arthritis and could not walk due to a large maggot-infested wound on her hind leg. 

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