Indian Flooding Update - Stuck!
With the flood waters down in Kaziranga National Park and no animals to rescue, the IFAW team was quite anxious to get moving to somewhere we could be more useful. What a disappointment we had when we found out that there was a strike scheduled for Wednesday and that anyone driving cars in the direction we needed to go would be putting themselves at risk.
With nowhere to go we did the only thing we could conceive of: visit the park. Maybe we would find an animal in need? If not, at least we would have an opportunity to study the wildlife in their natural environment. Of course we thought it was possible that we wouldn't see a single animal and after an hour in a wooden motor boat without seeing anything besides cows and a few birds I was beginning to prepare myself for an uneventful day. Little did we know that we were being taken to a location called "Rhino Place," also known (for clarity?) as "The Place of Rhinos." The names were neither misleading nor disappointing.
Rhino Place is marked by a two story ranger station on stilts. The first floor starts about 14 feet off of the ground to keep the inhabitants dry during floods. The second floor is partially open and includes a small room with a bunk bed for the rangers, a small kitchen area composed of a cement shelf and cement pits where cook fires are placed, and a small balcony with a water pump for washing dishes. The third floor was an observation tower for what else but watching rhinos!
And rhinos there were! At one point we were able to count 37 Asiatic One-Horned Rhinos which is a mind boggling number given their endangered status. Since I have only seen a few loan rhinos in the wild in the past watching 37 of them chewing cud, lying in the grass, and wallowing in the water was fascinating. There were rhinos of all sizes and ages including lots and lots of calves. Some of the babies were so small that you would only know they were there because of the Egrets that perch on their backs. Seeing them as a herd really make me think that they were more like armored cows than an endangered species. Of course, they are far more dangerous than any cow. No tourists have been allowed to visit Rhino Place since one rhino chased a jeep for over one kilometer snapping its beak and trying to take a bite out of the back door! The observation deck was therefore useful not just for observing but proved to be a very safe place to spy on this massive herd.
It wasn't an entirely happy day though. On our way our of Rhino Place we found the corpse of a rhino who died during the floods. This rhino was quite old and likely would have died soon with or without flooding, but it was still a somber reminder of why we are responding in India and great motivation to get moving towards somewhere that our services could be of use.