President Linda's 2016 Trip to India
The end of January, President Linda Reifschneider had the opportunity to visit Dr. Sarma in Guwahati, Assam, India. She stayed overnight at the guest house on the university grounds where Dr. Sarma is a professor. It was delightful to meet his daughter and a niece, both veterinary students at the university, as well as visit Dr. Sarma’s office and meet some of his university friends and students. On the drive from and to the airport, we passed one of the areas where train tracks have taken the lives of several elephants over the past years. This is one of the HEC issues we read about, but seeing the lay of the land firsthand helps one realize what a really serious and difficult problem this is.
We headed out the next day to Kaziranga National Park where, just outside the entrance to the park, Dr. Sarma held one of his elephant health clinics and Linda got to meet some of the elephants and their keepers Dr. Sarma has told us about over the past several years. It is always inspiring to see range country veterinarians ply their trade with minimal equipment and in an open field amid multiple elephants and their mahouts. Seeing the interest and concern of so many of the visitors and residents who gathered around, confirmed our feeling that the people of India really do care about their elephants, even though they can be most destructive of vital crops and often also claim human lives. A delightful encounter took place with some young lads from Meghalaya on a school outing. Their interest in the elephants lent an encouraging feeling to the day’s effort. And, of course, the medicines and equipment in use were items funded by AES’ generous donors.
After the health clinic, we spent the afternoon with park rangers at one of their stations where they fixed lunch for us, had a brief game drive where we saw several of the Greater One Horned rhino for which Kaziranga is noted, visited and did some veterinary work at the park’s elephant compound, visited the site where two juveniles will shortly begin their training, and ended the day spending the evening at the mahouts’ compound around a campfire with lots of smiles and picture-taking with Dr. Sarma translating for us. The following morning we drove back to Guwahati and had a lovely lunch at the home of Dwipan, Dr. Sarma’s assistant at the health clinic. The warmth and friendship offered by this multi-generation family – not to mention the wonderful food! – truly is the kind of moment that one always remembers with sincere gratitude.
Dwipan, Dr. Sarma's assistant, and family
This was the first leg of a wonderful two week trip that will be shared in full in two more installments taking us to a veterinary workshop AES helped host with USFWS funding, and then some time with Mamatha, the Indian school teacher who is speaking out to her fellow citizens and students about the importance of learning to live safely in areas where elephants still survive and why it is important that these magnificent creatures successfully complete their trek into the next century.
Please look for the next India Trip installment and thank you for your support!