It was in November 2020 that Sreekutty, a baby elephant, celebrated her first birthday with a little party thrown on her behalf by the people who took care of her. Many shared videos of her walking around and touching the birthday cake with a yellow flower on her head. But seven months later, on June 28, she died, aged one and a half years. Sreekutty, the much-loved elephant calf of the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre in Kottoor of Kerala, left many hearts broken.
“Only a day earlier she had fatigue and ran a slight fever. This morning she was dead. A post mortem was conducted. We had her cremated at a centre outside the forest, four kilometers away from the Kottoor centre,” says Renjith, Deputy Range Officer, Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The lab results are yet to come but the symptoms seemed to suggest the possibility of herpes, an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, says veterinarian Dr Shiju. “The results are to come from the Palode lab. But a preliminary analysis suggests it is herpes which should have caused hemorrhage of internal organs,” says Dr Shiju.
Neyyar Wildlife warden GR Ani adds that the infection is more manifest in calves, and that adults are usually carriers of the virus.
In 2019 when Sreekutty was rescued from a river near Thenmala in Kollam, she was barely a month old. Forest officials had tried to send her back but she wouldn’t go. Eventually she was taken to the Kottoor centre near Kappukaadu in the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. Last year when her first birthday was celebrated there were 19 elephants at the centre, including her. While she was the youngest, 78-year-old Soman was the oldest.
Watch: Sreekutty celebrate her first birthday
Sreekutty was playful and one of the naughtiest little calves at the centre, says a frequent visitor whose baby girl used to love playing with the elephant.