Bani Wildlife SOS

Tiny But Tenacious: Bani the Elephant Calf’s Remarkable Recovery

India is home to around 27,000 wild Asian elephants, one of the world’s largest remaining populations. However, these majestic animals face many threats, including habitat loss, poaching, and an increasingly dangerous problem – being struck by trains.

Elephant corridors across India’s forests and national parks are frequently intersected by rail lines. As human encroachment reduces their habitat, elephants are forced onto a deadly collision course with passenger and freight trains.

The statistics are worrying, according to official data, there are over 200 reported elephant deaths due to train strikes in the past 10 years. However, the actual number could be far higher as many incidents go unreported.

Bani Wildlife SOS

Meet Bani (pronounced Bonnie), a baby elephant orphaned in tragedy. In December 2023, A passenger train slammed into Bani’s mother as the family crossed the railway tracks in Lalkuan near Haldwani. Bani’s pregnant mother was killed instantly. The tiny calf was violently thrown aside, her bones shattered and future uncertain.

After first being cared for by the local forest department, Bani was transferred to the elephant hospital run by Wildlife SOS, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting India’s elephants.

There, veterinarians and wildlife experts used every resource to stabilise Bani. Initially, Bani was paralysed, unable to stand, but a breakthrough came when Bani managed to twitch her tail! That gave her care givers the motivation and reward they were hoping for. With continuing care, Bani is relishing her second chance at life. She can now stand, taking tentative steps as she regains her balance. As each day passes, Bani’s strength and mobility improves, bringing joy to the people caring for her.

The continuing problem of train strikes requires practical solutions – such as fly overs, providing safe passage. Another solution is AI enabled cameras that can detect elephants crossing railway lines, both at night and day. Such systems are already being installed and proving a success. However, with thousands of miles of track, the roll out will be long and expensive – but is a hopeful step in the right direction.

Bani’s road to recovery will be a long, but she will always have the care needed from Wildlife SOS. You can read more about Bani’s journey, and support her with a donation to Wildlife SOS here.

A part of Bani’s treatment includes acupuncture. If you’re wondering what acupuncture for a baby elephant looks like, you can watch on YouTube