Mumbai fights for ailing elephant's life

An overworked and overweight Indian elephant called Bijlee is fighting for her life in Mumbai after collapsing in the street, sparking anguish among animal activists and Bollywood stars.

Bijlee, aged 58 and weighing five tonnes, was found lying in pain in a northeastern suburb last week after decades of alleged overwork and neglect.

Local reports said she was used by her owners to beg on the streets and entertain at weddings without a break for more than 50 years.

On Tuesday, elephant specialist K.K. Sharma was flown in from northeastern India to treat Bijlee, and who now has helpers caring for her around the clock and a crane to help her stand up.

"Everybody shows their concerns but unfortunately the prospects are very bad," Sharma told AFP. He said Bijlee, whose name means "lightning" in Hindi, is 1.5 tonnes overweight and suffering degenerative joint disease, but even a strict diet many not help much.

Vets say Bijlee's owners have been feeding her junk food for years, including popular Indian snacks such as the "vada pav", a spicy potato pattie. Indian elephants' usually live off grass and tree bark.

"The damage has been done already. We're trying to control the pain and supplement the vitamin deficiency, give fluid and strengthen her nerves and muscles."

On Tuesday, the #savebijlee hashtag began trending on Twitter and she appeared on the the front page of Wednesday's Mumbai Mirror.

Bollywood's veteran superstar Amitabh Bachchan is among those moved by her plight, posting pictures and appealing for help on his blog.

"A compassionate appeal to all animal lovers," he wrote on Twitter, asking them to support the "Animals Matter To Me" charity that is caring for Bijlee.

Elephants are a common sight on the streets of many Indian cities although their movements are officially restricted in Mumbai, the country's largest city.