End of Era: Bijuli Prasad, World’s Oldest


The magnificent era of “Bijuli Prasad,” the world’s oldest domesticated elephant, concluded on Monday as it took its final breath in the Bihali Tea Estate of Biswanath in Assam. With its passing, a majestic 90-year journey that bridged the colonial legacy with the digital era came to a close.

After battling illness for a couple of years, the elephant breathed its last last night and was laid to rest in the tea garden. Hundreds of admirers paid their heartfelt tributes to the beloved “grandpa elephant.”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Bijuli Prasad. This elephant was our pride, and as it embarks on its journey beyond, we offer our respects. Bijuli will be greatly missed,” expressed one of the bereaved individuals who gathered to bid farewell to the elderly pachyderm.

Living a regal life, Bijuli Prasad was the world’s oldest Asiatic Elephant. Tuskers in the wild tend to have shorter lifespans compared to those in captivity.

(Image: News18)

“Prasad must have been around 86 years old,” stated Dr Kushal Konwar Sharma, a 2020 Padma Shri awardee.

Dr. Sharma, a professor and head at the Department of Surgery and Radiology at the College of Veterinary Science in Guwahati, has extensive experience working with pachyderms in Indonesia and India.

Bijuli Prasad was named by his master, Oliver Sahib from England, who christened him when he was purchased by the Magor Tea Estates of Assam.

As a privileged member, Prasad enjoyed royal hospitality at the Bihali Tea Estate of the Magor Group in Sonitpur district, Assam. This male tusker possessed an imposing presence and moved gracefully amidst the lush green tea bushes of the estate.

In 1968, the Borgang Tea Company acquired Prasad and engaged him in various tasks, including uprooting old tea bushes. The elephant was put on salary, an exceptional practice at the time. From his earnings, the mahout’s wages were deducted and his food, medicine and pension were covered.

Remaining in Borgang, Prasad remained an active and productive member of the extended Magor family. Even after retirement, Prasad continued to live a life of luxury.

The management provided two keepers for Bijuli on the company’s payroll. Weekly health and weight checkups were conducted, and the elephant enjoyed three king-sized meals daily. Health updates of the jumbo were sent to the company’s head office in Kolkata every week for record-keeping. Prasad’s weight was around 400 kgs at the time.

“Every day, we required 25 kilograms of rice, along with equal portions of maize, grams, and molasses to feed Bijuli. Additionally, truckloads of plantain trunks were gathered for the elephant’s consumption. Maintaining our pride in a healthy state costs around thirty to thirty-five thousand each month,” revealed Rajit Baruah, an employee of the Bihali tea estate in Biswanath district, Assam.

Unlike elephants in Kerala, which are robust and fed on coconut leaves and palm oil, elephants in Assam have different dietary habits. Dr. Sharma had advised chopping banana stems into pieces to aid Prasad’s digestion due to degenerated molars.

In 2018, Prasad was moved from Borgang to the Bihali tea estate along with Thomas Murmu, the Adivasi mahut (keeper) of the elephant. Thomas’s father had been the elephant’s keeper when it was acquired by the Magor group. Following his father’s passing, Thomas took on the responsibility.

“Bijuli is my life, and my employment in the tea garden revolves around caring for it. My family relies on me because of Bijuli. He reminds me of my father,” expressed Thomas Murmu, who had been looking after Prasad for the past two decades.

(Image: News18)

Previously, Dakshayani, an 88-year-old captive elephant in Kerala, held the title of the oldest elephant in India and Asia. A survey indicated that northeastern India is home to approximately 10,139 wild elephants, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the total Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus) population.

Among these, 5,719 are found in Assam, 1,754 in Meghalaya, and 1,614 in Arunachal Pradesh—the three primary elephant-range states.

Assam also boasts the highest number of captive elephants in the country, many of which are utilised by the state’s forest departments.

Source link

Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.