20-day-old rhino calf dies after being ‘abandoned’ by mother in Assam sanctuary
Experts say rhino mothers keep their calves with them until they reaches adulthood. A male rhino desperate to mate with the mother tends to drive the calf away, even kill in some cases.india Updated: Jun 09, 2017 08:39 IST
Twenty-day-old Tarzan is dead. And by losing the battle of survival, the rhino calf has temporarily diverted attention from poaching to a cruel habit of adult one-horned rhinos -- abandonment by its mother to mate with another male.
Forest guards found the male rhino calf moving about helplessly in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, about 48 km east of Guwahati, a week ago. The calf had apparently been abandoned by its mother.
The 39-square-km Pobitora, which has the highest concentration of the Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), is often called ‘Kaziranga’s showroom’.
Pobitora officials said the calf, which was starving, was lucky to not have been a prey of carnivores including feral dogs. They named it Tarzan and began feeding him.
But Tarzan needed treatment. He was thus sent to the animal care centre at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.
“Our best was not good enough to save the calf, which died at 3am today (Thursday). An autopsy confirmed it died of internal bleeding because of gastro complications induced by days of starvation after birth,” the zoo’s divisional forest officer Tejas Mariswamy told HT.
The calf, he said, was barely 20 days old as was evident from the pinkish tinge of his skin. “He either got separated from his mother or she abandoned him.”
Wildlife experts said some female rhinos in the wild tend to abandon their calves.
“This is true of young, first-time mothers that probably do not care much about motherhood,” said Rathin Barman of the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Kaziranga.
The youngest female rhino to have conceived in CWRC was nine years old. The possibility of younger females in the wild having become mothers is not ruled out.
An average adult rhino in the wild, weighing about 2.2 tonnes, has a life span of 40 years.
A male wild rhino can be a calf killer too.
“Experienced rhino mothers keep their calves with them until it reaches adulthood, which is a fairly long time. A male rhino desperate to mate with the mother tends to drive the calf away, even kill in some cases,” Barman said.
Apart from hostile parents, big cats such as tigers and mud-traps are known to kill rhino calves. Some calves die of starvation if the mother falls to poachers.
Poachers have killed at least six rhinos in Kaziranga and Orang national parks in Assam this year. The rhino is killed for its horn – believed to have aphrodisiac properties – that fetches an average $300,000 in the grey market.