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Growing Wild: the rescued rhino calves

It’s been a year since Kaziranga National Park was inundated by the worst floods to have hit Assam in over a decade. Among the 100-plus wild animal emergencies that CWRC (the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation: the wildlife rescue, treatment and rehabilitation centre run by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Assam Forest Department near Kaziranga) and its Mobile Veterinary Service units attended during the floods last year, were eight orphaned rhino calves that were rescued and brought to the centre to be hand-raised.

The simultaneous long-term care of eight rhinos has been a massive challenge for the team at CWRC. In addition to the efforts of the centre’s animal keepers and veterinarians, the tremendous support received from individual and corporate supporters, the Government of Assam, the Kaziranga National Park Authority and people from all walks of life across Assam has been critical.

“I remember that a group of children from a remote school had given up a mid-day meal to buy milk formula for the rhino calves”, says Dr Rathin Barman, WTI Joint Director and centre-in-charge, CWRC.  “There have been several such touching expressions of support. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the people of Assam and all well-wishers for their support and encouragement over the past year.”

When the rhino calves were first brought to CWRC they were stabilised at the centre’s Large Animal Nursery. Once they had recovered from their flood-related trauma and injuries they were shifted to a small outdoor paddock attached to the nursery. Gradually, having acclimatised to the outdoors, they were introduced to three larger paddocks with a natural stream running through them. This allowed the calves to wallow and play – an important part of their natural developmental behaviour.

“The calves have grown fast”, says Dr Panjit Basumatary, the lead veterinarian at CWRC. “Importantly, they’ve experienced all four seasons now, in an approximation of their natural habitat. It was touching to see how the younger calves huddled 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.”

CWRC currently has ten rhino calves under care. The eight calves rescued last year had already bonded with an older calf that was rescued in 2015. Another under care four- to six-month-old calf displaced by the monsoon floods was rescued from Burhapahar and brought to the centre earlier this month during Kaziranga flood 2017.

 

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