Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve is possibly the home to oldest surviving elephant in the world, Vatsala. Vatsala is 105 years old now, which makes her possibly the oldest surviving elephant in the world
Vatsala also lost her vision to incurable cataract, but she manages to navigate around the elephant camp at Panna Tiger Reserve with the help of her trunk and herd members
The female elephant was transported to Bori in MP from the Nilambur forest division 48 years ago. After spending two decades in Bori, Vatsala went to Panna where she continues to live. In 1995, she lost all her teeth — tusks, molars and premolars. An Asian elephant in the wild has an average lifespan of 60 years.
For 15 years in Panna, she ferried tourists on her back before retirement. She went on to become the Nani Maa of her adopted herd at the camp. She is gentle and caring but also firm about discipline. She is also known to lose her cool when the other inmates misbehave. She has survived two attacks by an elephant in mush, in 2003 and 2008.
Other than the fact that she was born there, virtually nothing is known about Vatsala’s life in Nilambur where she spent close to 55 years. The MP forest department, which wants to enter her name in record books, plans to seek her date of birth from the records of the Nilambur forest division.
The lack of a male companion in Bori meant that Vatsala didn’t get the chance to bear a baby elephant in the 20 years she spent there. But it’s not known if she became a mother in Nilambur.
She did, however, have a female companion — one that she was deeply attached to. Geeta was her pal in Bori, who, sadly for Vatsala, refused to leave the place for a life in Panna. When trucks were brought in to transfer them to Panna. Vatsala climbed into the vehicle without a concern. Geeta stood her ground, refusing to move. Vatsala perhaps doesn’t know that her friend is long dead.