Rescued from Kaziranga floods, 8 rhino calves complete a year in rehab
Fewer animals got killed in Kaziranga National Park this year than in 2016 because a swollen Brahmaputra unusually took four days to inundate the 434 sq km wildlife preserve. The river did not give much time in July last year, flooding almost 80% of the park and killing nearly 450 animals including 26 rhinos.
Eight rhino calves less than six months old were lucky to survive and be rescued. On Monday, they completed a year at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), an animal orphanage near Kaziranga.
The 17-acre rehabilitation centre was founded in 2002 as a joint venture between the Assam forest department, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).
“The 2016 flood was probably the worst that hit Assam in a decade. These eight calves, the eldest about 18 months old now, were among 100-plus wild animal emergency cases we handled,” CWRC in-charge and WTI director Rathin Barman told HT.
Rescued rhino calves are initially hand-raised and moved to a simulated jungle within CWRC where their health and wild instincts are monitored before they are released in the national park.
The average age at which a rhino calf is rehabilitated in the wild is four years. A one-horned rhino lives up to 40 years in the wild.
Kaziranga’s divisional forest officer Rohini B Saikia said the park took a longer time to inundate this year, enabling more animals to flee to higher grounds than in 2016.
“Of the 107 animals that the flood claimed this year, seven were rhino calves. One calf was rescued from the Burapahar range of the park,” he said.
That calf, four months old, is being hand-raised at CWRC, which has another calf rescued in 2015. These, however, did not appeal to animal lovers like the eight rescued last year.
“We did not have enough resources to take care of these eight. But help kept pouring in from individuals, the corporate world and the government. We were particularly touched when a group of children from a remote school gave up their midday meal to buy milk formula for these calves,” said Barman.
When a rhino calf is first brought to CWRC, it is stabilised at the centre’s large animal nursery. Once it recovers from flood-related trauma and injures, it is shifted to a small outdoor paddock attached to the nursery.
After acclimatisation with the outdoors, the calf is gradually introduced to three larger paddocks with a natural stream running through them. This allows it to wallow and play – an important part of its natural developmental behaviour.
CWRC’s lead veterinarian Pranjit Basumatary said, “The eight calves have grown fast. Importantly, they’ve experienced all four seasons now, in an approximation of their natural habitat.”
He added, “It is touching to see how the younger calves huddle close to the older ones at night to keep warm during the winter, as they would have with their mothers. Now, as they play in the mud, enjoy the rain or nap together as they would in their natural environment, we feel a sense of satisfaction that they are making good progress towards a life in the wild.”