Working Our Way to the Indian Floods
Members of IFAW's international Emergency Response team have joined the team from IFAW's Indian office and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to respond to the recent horrendous floods. The floods, which the UN has called the worst in living memory for some parts of India, Bangladesh, and other regions in Asia, have not only killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more but have also hurt and displaced wildlife and caused a concern for disease outbreak among livestock and companion animals. While humanitarian agencies are caring for the people, IFAW is doing everything that we can to care for the animals.
The IFAW ER team arrived in India on Sunday and has been assisting IFAW India staff in their continued assessment of Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga has one of the highest populations of the endangered Asian One-Horned Rhinoceros. These endangered rhinos regularly face threats from poachers with 14 already poached this year. With so many threats from poaching it seems unfair that the floods should kill more of them and displace others. During the floods two of the displaced rhinos were killed by poachers and a third rhino actually killed a human being. Even yesterday our assessment of the park was temporarily delayed while park rangers and the forestry service engaged in a shoot-out with rhino poachers. The good news is that neither the rangers nor the rhinos were hurt even though the poachers got away.
Fortunately the water levels around Kaziranga have gone down and the animals have returned to the park. In fact, since we have been at Kaziranga we have learned that this years floods, although horrible elsewhere, were considered only moderate in the park. With that in mind, we have decided to move to more devastated areas but likely will not be able to travel until Thursday due to a local strike that has shut down the roads.
In the meantime we will continue to look for injured animals in the park. Today we thought we found a rhino calf in need, it was certainly struggling to make it across very deep water and the mother was clearly anxious circling back over and over to try to help the calf across. But eventually both made it to the shallows and now the calf will be stronger for its next swim across a river or during a flood. It was great to see a young animal struggling yet learning. Hopefully this little guy will be one less animal that we will need to rescue in the future.