Health Status

        Increase in density during summer and conflict from
human settlements can impair the heath status of the
elephants. High level of cattle grazing is an important point
to be mentioned. Heavy internal helminthiasis observed in
the dung samples of the elephant especially during the
first wet season (92%). Prevalence of parasitism, up to
87% was also observed during summer.  (Feb, March,
April of 1999, 2000, 2001 - 94 samples). Helminthiasis is
important during first wet season, when elephants tend to
graze more than browse as in the dry deciduous forests.
(Easa, et al. 1996).  An increase in intermediate host of
the helminth parasite can also aggravate the situation
(Soulsby, 1976).  So due to competition for grasslands with
domestic animals the chances of internal parasitic
infestation are more.  

Another point is that dung heap, and presumably faecal
boli of cattle can acts as incubators by trapping heat, but
they also prevent migration of larva unless their hard dry
outer covering is softened by rain.  Under relatively dry
conditions and on short pastures dung heaps can act as
reservoirs of larva for up to five months in summer. Larvae
are released only after a constant heavy rain, which
softens the covering and aids the release. At the same
time mortality due to parasitism also high during summer.
Helminth parasites are usually encountered during
post-mortem, and few of them are reported to be the
cause of death.  

Even though elephant parasites are species specific, cross
infestation from cattle is possible. The stress they cause
can impart an increase in the parasitic load thus causing
weakness of the host.  Few reports of haemorrhagic
septicaemia like mortality were observed in elephants,
especially during pre-monsoon period.   Morbidity and
mortality in domestic cattle population are also not
negligible.  However the relation in between them could not
be quantified.   

        Contamination and concentration of pathogenic
organisms in water sources during summer is an important
threat to elephants. Cross infection from domestic cattle
cannot be under estimated especially when we consider
the diseases like Leptospirosis.  There were few nephritis
conditions observed during summer season, but the
causative organism could not be identified.  

The contamination of water sources with pesticides,
herbicides and fertilisers can also adversely affect the
health status of the animal.  It is of great importance when
considering Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, where settlers
occupy most of the water sources (Vayals).  It is evident
that stress in elephants due to man animal conflict imparts
serious impacts on the health of the elephant populations
in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

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