Spotlight India: rhino poaching shocker as center staff focus on caring for rescued animals

Elephant calf rescued from Kanchanjuri.Last week, massive floods engulfed Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India for the second time in two months, inundating around 90 percent of the park. The intensity and volume of the floods left the forest authority and wildlife caretakers worried that the floods would again leave a trail of devastation for the park and its wildlife.

Even as 5 displaced rhinos were mercilessly killed by poachers in just 3 days, our animal rescue staff worked tirelessly to help the stricken wildlife.

Just two months back, a violent flood took the lives of nearly 600 animals in and around the park. This second wave of floods has killed 143 animals till now.

The IFAW Wildlife Rescue Center alone has attended 26 cases this last week, of which 14 are hog deer, two swamp deer, one Asiatic elephant, two Indian rhinoceros, one hog badger, three buffaloes, one python, one sambar deer and one oriental pied hornbill.

Out of the 26 animals, 14 have been successfully released back to the wild and five are still undergoing rehabilitation at the Center. An elephant calf, a rhino calf and two wild buffalo calves will undergo long term rehabilitation.

Rescued rhino at CWRC 2nd Oct 2012.As the water level of the mighty Brahmaputra River and its tributaries recedes, things are going back to normal in the park. Although the number of rescues has now dropped down to normal levels, our veterinarians are still frantically working to care for the unusually high number of animals, specially our ‘larger guests’, the elephant, rhino and buffalo calves.

The rhino calf has responded well to the care given by the keepers and she has started suckling milk from the feeding bottle, whereas both the buffalo calves were still finding it difficult to drink from the bottle, of course none of these animals had ever seen one.

But now, with the special care of keepers Prasanta, Lakhi and Ramen, both the calves have learnt to feed from the bottle. It was really heartening to see Prasanta feeding the calves with much love and compassion, while Lakhi would hold the calves and Ramen strokes the rump region of the calves making them comfortable in the way a mother buffalo would do to her young ones.

Sadly, the elephant calf is still a bit weak and she was taken to the elephant nursery area yesterday. As elephants are highly social beings, we never leave them alone and this means that Dr. Reetika Maheshwari is now tasked with accompanying the calf to care for her and provide companionship and mental stimulation.

Dr. Reetika is hopeful for the elephant’s recovery and feels that the calf will soon be with her own kind as she will eventually join other elephant undergoing rehabilitation at the Center.

I realized that being a veterinarian or a wildlife rehabilitator requires more than just intelligence, training, and compassion, though all of these traits are certainly important.  It also requires often very tough mentality and patience. 

Caring for the young animals is no easy task. It involves attending to their needs for food, shelter, medical care and attention 24 x 7. I am, as always, grateful to our wonderful and dedicated staff for taking good care of the animals.

--SB

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia