The torrential rains over the past weeks may have inconvenienced many humans, but they’ve actually endangered animals — even the national animal.
Across the flooded Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar and Kaziranga National Park in Assam, smaller animals are struggling to avoid drowning while the bigger ones like the tiger and rhinos face a threat to their lives from poachers, who take advantage of the situation to hunt them down.
But at the VTR and KNP, dedicated groups of forest guards and amateur wildlife enthusiasts are working round-the-clock to keep wildlife casualties to a minimum and rescue smaller and younger animals which don’t have the strength to negotiate the strong currents and are often swept away.
At the VTR, 50 swimmers employed by the forest department are helping in rescue of wildlife such as hog deer and barking deer, carrying them to dry land. Nearly 400 forest guards are also working with anti-poaching squads, tiger trackers and regular patrol teams, officials said.
At KNP, rescuers are adopting innovative means to help the confused animals.
On Friday, rescuers carefully covered the eyes of a rhino calf with a piece of cloth to prevent more trauma to the young animal during the journey to safety and a shelter. The rhino was separated from its mother and was lost in the surging flood waters of the Brahmaputra.
“We are trying to get the animals out of the flood zone and guide them to safer areas,” said RB Singh, the field director of VTR, spread across 800 sq km in West Champaran district. But rarely does the Gandak river causes so much flooding in the game safari.
The only tiger reserve in the state, a census last year had put the number of big cats in VTR at 28.
With food sources running low for the animals in VTR, migration of wildlife from Chitwan National Park in Nepal has only aggravated the situation, he said.
Besides tigers, the reserve also has several species of deer, including chital, a few rhinos, bisons and neelgais.
A community leader in Madanpur, on the fringes of the VTR, said that the park was witnessing this level of floodwater after nearly two decades.
The field director said that such situations increases the possibility of man-animal conflict as wildlife often migrate to nearby villages in search of food and shelter.
In a village located near the Kaziranga National Park, people woke up to find a rhino calf washing up to the door before it was rescued by workers from an animal rehabilitation centre.
The park boasts of more than 1,800 one-horned rhinos, 70% of the world’s rhino population besides about 45 tigers.
Forest personnel have so far rescued eight rhino calves --- aged between one month and one year --- from flood waters in the World Heritage Site park.
“They were separated from their mothers and got washed away. We are now treating them at our veterinary centre,” said Rathin Barman, deputy director of Wildlife Trust of India that runs the centre.
The Assam forest department has deployed over 1,000 persons including staff on the highway to ensure passage of animals to the hills from low lying areas.
This is also the time when poachers prey on the vulnerable rhinos which are often disoriented by the surging waters, said a forest official.
Many rhinos were killed in Kaziranga during similar displacement during the 2013 floods. However, no poaching incident has been reported this year.
Forest officials found the remains of six rhinos drowned by floodwaters in Kaziranga while another rhino died in another national reserve in the state.
(With agency inputs)