Meet Chipra Rani, Bengal’s longest serving elephant

April 9th, 2008 - 10:26 am ICT by admin  

By Sreya Basu
Kolkata, April 9 (IANS) She is 66 - well past the retirement age in government jobs. But Chipra Rani, a gentle jumbo working for the West Bengal forest department, is far from calling it a day. Chipra Rani has been working for the past 42 years with the forest department, helping the staff trace lost elephants or send wandering wild pachyderms back to the wilderness.

“Age-wise, there are older kunkis (trained elephants) than Chipra Rani, but in terms of service she is the longest-serving elephant in Bengal and probably in India as well. We are really proud of her,” state chief wildlife warden S.S. Bist told IANS.

Bist said there are no plans to retire the kunki from service.

“Retirement of trained elephants depends on their physical state. Chipra Rani is too fit to resign at this moment. She is an asset. It will be difficult to find another trained elephant like her,” he said.

Chipra Rani joined the forest department at the age of 25. She was separated from her herd and captured by foresters from the Chipra beat of the Buxa Tiger Reserve in north Bengal in 1967.

Chipra Rani’s ex-mahout Dhanbahadur Dorji said: “Though born in the wild she has always been gentle and obedient. I was her in-charge till my retirement in 2004. Till date she has not injured anyone.”

The kunki had undertaken several operations in her career. She helped the department send wild elephants back to the forest in Midnapore and Bankura, count rhinoceroses at Gorumara in north Bengal during the rhino census and search for an injured elephant at Buxa.

The average life span of an elephant is around 65 to 70 years.

Sources said currently there are 76 captive elephants with the West Bengal department, of which 56 are in the Jaldapara forest, 12 in Gorumara and eight in the Buxa forest of north Bengal.

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