Elephants Released To Wild for First Time in India
In Manas the elephants will be reintegrated into a wild herd once they are familiarized with the area. It is the first time elephants have been rehabilitated and released to the wild in India. Sri Lanka and Kenya are the only other countries to have successfully released hand-raised elephants into the wild.
“The elephants will be allowed to move freely in the jungle during the daytime under the supervision of a keeper,” said Dr. N. V. K. Ashraf, Director Wild Rescue of WTI. “At night, for their security, they will be sheltered in a stockade built in an area of about one hectare [about 10000 sq. meters].”
The elephants were transported to an area of Manas called Doimari, an ideal elephant habitat located far from the nearest human habitation. It is the biggest continuous forest habitat (unfragmented habitat) in India’s north-east region and extends from the Indian state of Assam up to the country of Bhutan.
“All six elephants are being radio-collared for post-release monitoring. If there is a problem we can find and rescue them,” said Dr. Bhaskar Choudhry, wildlife veterinarian of WTI.
The six elephants, which range between two-and-a-half and six-years-old, were hand-raised at the rehabilitation center (CWRC) in Kaziranga. The young calves were rescued from different parts of Assam and have been at the centre from one-to-five years. CWRC is India’s first multi-species rehabilitation facility and was set-up in partnership between WTI, IFAW, and the Assam Forest Department.
M. C. Malakar, Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam and D. M. Singh, Kaziranga Park Director were present at the elephants send-off from the centre in Kaziranga. Kampa Borgoyari, Deputy Chief of the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) received the elephants in Manas.
A six-member veterinary team comprising doctors from the College of Veterinary Science, Guwahati, Dr. Bijoy Dutta and Dr. Bhupen Sarma, Dr. Bhaskar Choudhry, Dr. Anjan Talukdar, and Dr. Ashraf of WTI, and Dr. Raj Jyoti Deka (as independent consultant) accompanied the elephants on their journey from Kaziranga to Manas.
A. J. Cady, Director Animals in Crisis and Distress, IFAW, and Vivek Menon, Executive Director, WTI also joined the elephants. Mr. Cady symbolically released the elephants in Manas, signifying arrival to their new home. The exercise is part of the elephant rehabilitation programme initiated by WTI and IFAW with support from the Assam Forest Department.
Background of the elephants
- On August 28, 2002 CWRC staff rescued a two-week-old elephant calf (male) from a trench on the Numaligarh tea estate. The orphaned calf was brought to CWRC for care. The elephant is now five years old.
- The second elephant calf (male) was one-year-old when it was rescued from flood waters in Digboi by the forest department and brought to the centre on December 8, 2002. The elephant is now six years old and the oldest of the calves.
- The third elephant calf (male) was rescued by CWRC staff from Koliabor near the town of Tezpur on October 3, 2003. It had been stranded and orphaned. The elephant is now three-and-a-half-years old.
- The fourth elephant calf (female) was rescued from the Rupajuli tea estate in Tezpur by estate workers on September 23, 2004. The two-month-old animal had been injured after it fell in a trench and was displaced from its herd. The animal was handed over to CWRC for care. The elephant is now two-and-a-half-years old.
- The fifth elephant calf (female) was rescued from the Barsapori tea estate by estate workers on October 14, 2004. The two-month old calf was displaced from its herd and was handed over to CWRC for care. The elephant is now two-and-a-half-years old.
- The sixth elephant calf (male) was about one-year-old when it was rescued from the Numaligarh tea estate on October 19, 2004 and brought to the centre for care. The elephant is now three-and-a-half-years old.