A creative vet comes up with a special way to help two young elephants get to sleep – cosy pyjamas and night socks
The custom-made bedclothes have worked wonders for Rupa, just three months old, and Aashi, aged 11 months
Rupa came to the centre after suffering injuries falling into a ravine, while Aashi was rejected by its mother and herd
The pair are currently being cared for at a centre near Kaziranga National Park in India, where Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit later this month
As every parent knows, getting two tired youngsters ready for bed can be tricky. So, imagine preparing two exhausted baby elephants with a combined weight of 246 kilos (around 38st) for lights-out.
But an imaginative vet came up with a solution. He provided these traumatised orphan Asian elephants — Rupa, just three months old, and Aashi, 11 months — with cosy pyjamas and night socks to help them sleep.
And as these charming pictures of them contentedly sleeping next to each other show, the custom-made bedclothes have worked wonders. Both elephants were separated from their mothers soon after birth. Missing maternal warmth and affection, they struggled to sleep on the cold concrete floor of their rescue centre in north-eastern India.
Rupa — whose name means ‘beauty’ — had rolled down a steep rocky bank into a ravine when she was just weeks old. She became trapped at the bottom and her mother couldn’t reach her.
Only when villagers heard her plaintive cries was she brought to the rescue centre. Aashi — a Hindu word for ‘joy and laughter’ — was found in a trench in an Assam tea garden without her mother or herd. She was reunited, but was then found alone again in the same spot having been rejected.
At first, it seemed that the baby elephants who were found in the Kaziranga National Park — which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit later this month — had slim chances of survival.
But just like Babar, the elegantly dressed French cartoon elephant, the night-time outfits fit like a dream. Dr Panjit Basumatary, a vet at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) rescue centre, came up with the idea and encouraged keepers to wrap them up warmly in blankets and scarves.
‘With the small elephants, it is important to control their body temperature,’ he says. ‘I noticed in the mornings they could be cold from staying in the concrete nursery after being out in the sun during the day.’
Some colleagues were sceptical, but the elephants soon got used to wearing socks and boots at night. Keepers quickly saw improvements in their condition — they were warmer and more content in the mornings.
Rupa is now steadily on the path of recovery and, eventually, reintroduction into the wild, after suffering a dislocated leg and deep wounds following her fall. Aashi, who was severely dehydrated and stressed when she was found on the tea plantation, is also making good progress.
Sadly, the problem of breast-fed baby elephants being separated from their mothers is getting worse in the area, which has a high concentration of Asian elephants and the world’s largest population of greater one-horned rhinoceroses.
Poaching is a major issue, too, with the demand for illegal ivory and rhino horn for the Chinese market.
A rapidly growing human population also means that former wild areas are becoming built-up and disoriented elephants stray into towns and villages more often.
After Rupa and Aashi are weaned off bottle-fed formula milk, they will eventually be released in two years’ time in groups — either in Kaziranga or Manas, a nearby national park on the border of Bhutan.
It costs around £50 a day to care for a baby elephant in its first three months at the IFAW centre and they need new boots every two weeks.
Philip Mansbridge, UK director of IFAW, says: ‘Such rescue work is making a real difference. Casualties, though, are coming to us often at a young age and usually in very vulnerable circumstances.
‘These endangered Asian elephants must be afforded the protection they deserve so this magnificent species has a chance to recover.’
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