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First Durga, Then Gauri, Special Navratri Blessings For Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

This is a real-life story of two elephant calves who were abandoned by their herds Both of them were found by Dudhwa Tiger Reserve staff and brought to their camp They named them Durga and Gauri as they arrived at Dudhwa on the eve of Navratri
Indian Masterminds Stories

‘The Elephant Whisperers’ made history when it became the first Indian documentary to win an Oscar. It tells the story of an Indian couple who care for an orphaned baby elephant inside Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu. Here is a similar story, equally emotional, which merits recognition and accolades too, as like ‘The Elephant Whisperers’, this real life story also shows India’s inherent respect for wildlife, especially the elephant which is revered and given a place of honour in her temples.

The story we are about to narrate unfolded on Navratri, an annual 9-nights festival observed in India in honour of Hindu Goddess Durga. And, it is believed that Goddess Durga’s constant companion is a tiger or a lion. No wonder ‘little Durga’ also chose to arrive at a tiger reserve during Navratri time. Little Durga is a one-year-old elephant calf who arrived in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh one day before Navratri, in 2018. She has now grown into an adult elephant living peacefully in her new abode.

Coincidentally, another female elephant calf of one and half years of age arrived at Dudhwa this Navratri, and has been named Gauri. And the best part is, Durga and Gauri are bonding well. It seems Durga has adopted little Gauri as her little sister.

ARRIVAL OF DURGA IN NAVRATRI 2018

When Durga arrived in Dudhwa, she was taken care of by Mr. Ramesh Pandey, who is currently IG Forests and Director, Project Elephant. Speaking to Indian Masterminds, the senior IFS officer recounted the sudden appearance of the female elephant calf. “Five years back in 2018, when I was Field Director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, we got an information that an elephant calf has been orphaned in the jungles of Najibabad and she has been badly stung by honey bees. All efforts to get her united back to her herd failed. In that situation, the only option left was to hand rear the calf with other elephants, and that was possible in Dudhwa since it had a group of 21 camp elephants of all age groups.”

IFS officer Ramesh Pandey with Durga

THE FIRST GODDESS

The calf reached Dudhwa just one day before Navratri, and, hence, the then Deputy Director of the tiger reserve, Mr. Mahavir Kaujlagi, and staff named her ‘Durga’.

From Day 1, Durga became a huge attraction as she was cute and playful. She was handed over to Irshad Mahaut, who reared her as his own child.

And, now, Durga has turned five, and her birthday was celebrated few days back as it coincides with the arrival of Navratri,” said Mr. Pandey, reminiscing the fond memories of times spent with her in Dudhwa.

Gauri with Irshad Mahout (in pink shirt)

ARRIVAL OF GAURI IN NAVRATRI 2023

Something exactly similar happened on the eve of this Navratri, too! News came of another elephant calf getting orphaned in Najibabad division. The forest staff attempted to reunite the female calf with her herd two times but failed. So, she was shifted to Salukapur elephant camp of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, where Durga also resides.

“Since the new entrant reached just before the Shardiya Navratri this time too, she has been named Gauri by the Dudhwa staff, and Irshad Mahout, who reared Durga, is taking care of her,” Mr. Pandey said.

THE BONDING

The best part is that Durga is giving great company to Gauri as an elder sister and taking good care of her.

Mr. Pandey said, “Durga is helping her to settle and giving great support in her rearing. Heart-warming visuals have been shared by team Dudhwa with me since I have been associated with Durga for the last five years.”

On Durga and Gauri being abandoned by their herds, he said that “no one knows why. Many time this happens in the wild.”

Durga and Gauri together

THE SECOND GODDESS

Gauri, the new member, is now making herself home at the Salukabad camp, where many other elephants reside. At one and half years old, she is the youngest in the camp.

Describing her arrival in the camp, present Field Director of Dudhwa, Mr. Lalit Verma, told Indian Masterminds, “She was found abandoned by her herd in Nazibabad Division in the North. We tried two times to get her back to her herd, but did not succeed. So, after getting permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden, we brought her to Dudhwa where she is being hand reared by Irshad Mahout in the Salukabad camp.”

NAMED BY CAMP STAFF

Among the inmates in this camp is one lactating elephant called Trisha. The camp staff are now trying to get Trisha to adopt little Gauri. Trisha has a 3-year-old female calf of her own.

It was Irshad Mahout and other staff in the camp who chose the name ‘Gauri’ for the baby elephant, informed Mr. Verma. “We decided that they should name her as they would be rearing her and calling out her name all the time. They first thought of naming her ‘Bhavani’ but then thought that the name sounded fierce and the gentle baby should have a soft name. And, they finally named her ‘Gauri’.”

Gauri in her new home

GAJ GAURAV AWARD

So Gauri it is, and together with Durga, her new sister, both are ensuring a very happy Navratri for Dudhwa, as everyone feels blessed to have them in the tiger reserve!

In recognition of the important role of the mahouts in rearing abandoned elephant calves and helping them adjust to their new family and life, the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change, Government of India, has started awarding them from this year. IG Forests Ramesh Pandey said, “We are recognising such works of mahouts by giving them Gaj Gaurav Award under Project Elephant.”


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