Maheswari, 85-year-old elephant, dies in Kerala zoo

Maheswari, an 85-year-old elephant who was brought from the wild in 1946, Monday died in the zoo here, barely two days after she fell ill.

IANS| Last Updated: Feb 09, 2015, 18:00 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: Maheswari, an 85-year-old elephant who was brought from the wild in 1946, Monday died in the zoo here, barely two days after she fell ill.

Jacob Alexander, the vet who was treating the female elephant, told IANS: "Late last night, with the help of heavy belts, she was lifted from the ground where she lay and made to stand.

"She had her favourite food... But despite the best medical aid, we could not keep her alive," he said.

According to zoo records, Maheswari came from a forest area in Konni, now in Pathanamthitta district, in 1946.

Cynthia Chandran, a journalist and daughter of a former director of the zoo, told IANS that she grew up seeing Maheswari from the mid-70s.

"We stayed in the zoo till my father retired in 1989. At times she used to come in the night to our residence which had 26 different types of fruit trees. Her favourite was the jackfruit.

"Even after we left the campus, whenever any of us visited her, she would recognise us.

"I visited her yesterday and she used her trunk to feel me. She was the darling of so many people," Chandran added.

According to veterinarian Jacob Cheeran, elephants that live in the wild get their last set of teeth when they are 40 years old. "Captive elephants get it as late as at the age of 60."

The food habit of wild elephants is that they eat uncooked food and mostly thick leafy materials, while those in the captivity get cooked food especially pulses, cereals and plantains. So their teeth last longer.

"Once the teeth of the elephant become smooth, they have to be fed cooked food and plantains," said Cheeran.

Maheswari will get a befitting funeral in the zoo enclosure. As she is owned by the Kerala government, she will get an "official" farewell too. And there will be thousands of teary eyes.