Baby Rhino Rescued from Kaziranga Floods Now Being Bottle-fed

Rescue teams from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) rushed to Mihimukh at Kohora range of the Kaziranga National Park in Assam moments after a message about a stray rhino calf buzzed on their wireless sets. These are times of sleepless nights and round-the-clock alertness for the custodians and animal rescue teams engaged in the world heritage national park. The first floods of the year have inundated about 75% of the sanctuary. 150 strategic forest camps of the park are now underwater. Kaziranga has 226 such camps manned by forest guards 24 hours a day to ensure the safety of its rich fauna.

The floods have separated the 10-day-old rhino calf from its mother. The park is home to around 2,400 rhinoceroses, and it’s always safe to keep a distance from a mother rhino with its baby as they are aggressive in these stressed times.

The floods this year have claimed nine animals of which five hog deer were hit by speeding vehicles on the NH37, two swamp deer drowned and two were poached. According to the last bulletin, the water in the park is showing a receding trend.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called up Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday to discuss the worrying situation and assured all help to combat the menace.

The rescue teams searched for the mother for several hours but it did not yield any result. Finally, it was decided that the calf had to be moved out of the flood-hit area and taken to the CWRC. With utmost care, the baby rhino was shifted to the carrier vehicle and taken to the care centre.

According to the CWRC, the rhino calf is doing well and is being given the milk formula Lactogen 2 in a giant feeding bottle. Stressed by the separation from its mother, the baby will take a few days to adjust to the new environment. Once it starts feeding normally, then gradually it will be allowed to mix with other calves. At this moment, the centre has four flood-orphaned calves from the previous year’s deluge. The centre keeps these rhinos for two to two and a half years before they are released in their natural environment.

Three rhino calves, which were rescued two years ago during floods at the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, were translocated to the Manas Tiger Reserve in April this year. These babies had undergone a protocol of rehabilitation for two years before being moved.

India’s only Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation is located in Borjuri, Panbari, on the fringes of the World Heritage Kaziranga National Park of Assam. Established in 2002 to support the efforts of the Assam forest department in responding to wildlife emergencies of the region and more so during the floods, the CWRC is managed by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The rehabilitation and conservation centre has the unique distinction of tending to 250 species, which possibly makes it stand out globally for its multi-species services.

Until July 2020, the CWRC had attended to 6,197 cases that were either stranded and displaced during floods, injured in road accidents, injured by people, confiscated by the forest department, rescued by people and handed over to the forest department, abandoned by natal herd or trapped, etc. 64% of these have been sent to the wild, which includes relocation. The CWRC has the unique reputation of attending to endangered and rare species such as Bamboo Rat, Bagger, Toddy Cat and Bengal Florian. CWRC at Kaziranga is the only such facility in India where injured, orphaned wild animals are treated or hand raised and in due course of time returned to their natural habitat.

The centre through its experience in the field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation has developed protocols for rehabilitation of more than eight species of wildlife, trained more than 300 veterinarians and demonstrated biodiversity conservation by returning the animals back to the wild. The centre has 12 animal keepers, two doctors, one biologist and one communications officer.

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Author: Shirley