Bijli is a true Mumbaikar

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 19 Juni 2013 | 22.23

At 4500 kilos she is 1500 kilos overweight | Diet of vada pavs, desi ghee parathas chief culprit | Overworked, suffers from arthritic aches and pains | Needs to rest and go on a crash diet, prescribes doc.

Ailing elephant Bijli, who was rescued by animal activists from her abusive owner last week, was put on a strict diet by a vet flown in from Assam on Tuesday evening.

What Bijli, 60, has been asked to avoid - vadapav, oily parathas, desi ghee-laced rotis, and fruits with excessive sugar content -- could apply to a lot of us Mumbaikars fighting flab and its attendant problems.

Dr K K Sharma, elephant expert and a Central Zoo Authority member, is convinced that Bijli's weight - over 1,500 kilos more than the average 3,500 kilos for an adult elephant - is at the centre of all her troubles. "While one cannot expect Bijli to lose 1,500 kg, she must lose some so that her ageing, arthritis-ridden hind legs can take her weight," he said.

Currently, Bijli balances herself on her front legs and trunk, helped by a crane that holds her up the rear. Yet, she falls to her side every now and then. Every time she falls, the volunteers taking care of her at Car Craft, a sprawling garage owned by Sachin Satam in Mulund (west), push her back to her feet.

Nearly 40 volunteers of two NGOs - Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare and Animals Matter to Me - are attending to Bijli round-theclock. A shed has been raised in the garage to shield Bijli from rain.

Dr Sharma, after Bijli's preliminary examination, has ruled out any fractures. "She is obese. For years, she has been fed just about anything. In fact, the owner's family believes the pachyderm took ill because she stopped consuming desi ghee," he said.

From Wednesday, Bijli will be introduced to her new diet. It will be a gradual switch over because she going to hate her new meals. "We can't suddenly stop giving her what she has grown up on. But will move her to mixed grass and a few fruits that are low in sugar," Dr Sharma said.

The doctor said Bijli's condition is a cautionary tale for all pet owners who think feeding their dogs and cats what the rest of the family eats is an expression of love. "I was told Bijli is very finicky and eats only peeled bananas. Of course she will be finicky because she has been fed peeled bananas all these years. But who would have peeled the bananas for her in the wild; did anybody give that a thought?"

Dr Sharma said Bijli has been on an extremely high-calorie diet all her life. "With age, that has played havoc with her body," he said.

The doctor said an elephant in the wild consumes an average of 250 kg of grass and 200 litres water every day. "Because she was being used for begging for alms, she obviously ate all sorts of stuff people fed her and never got the right amount of water to digest it."

On Tuesday, Dr Sharma wrote a long prescription for Bijli and the course will start on Wednesday morning. But before that there will be a blood test to gather more information of her health. "One vital thing we need to find out is if she is suffering from rheumatism or osteoporosis," he said.

Some of the medicines that Bijli has been prescribed are:

1. IV fluid glucose saline

2. Vetalog- for pain and inflammation

3. Novizac-inorganic phosphorous -- main source of internal energy

4. Tribivete - vitamin

5. Neurokind plus vet - vitamin

While locals were demanding that the elephant be shifted to the Parel Animal Hospital, Dr Sharma has advised against this. He said the transportation could aggravate Bijli's injuries.

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