History in the making, three new rhino babies spotted by exhilarated vet in India
This post was written by, Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury, Veterinarian, and sent to us by Sheren Shrestha, Head of Communications, both members of the International Fund for Animal Welfare - Wildlife Trust of India partnership.
Bihu, our traditional Assamese New Year falling in April, was a bittersweet time for us in Manas. We were still reeling from the news of the second rhino poaching in the national park, when we witnessed something we had been waiting for, for years - Ganga had given birth.
Before I go any further, it becomes imperative to give background here on Ganga. She had been rescued in 2004 during the annual floods in Kaziranga National Park by the State Forest Department and IFAW-WTI.
There had been another rhino along with her at the time, who was named Jamuna. They were nursed back to health in our Wildlife Rescue Centre near Kaziranga, and when old enough, shifted to Manas National Park three years later.
The first rhino to be rescued, however, had been Mainao. This was back in 2002, and she had been quite traumatised and injured, not unlike Ganga, when she had come in. She had been found in forked branches of trees during the floods not more than a few weeks old.
Mainao, Ganga, and Jamuna were the first hand-reared rhinos to ever have been rehabilitated in the wild in India.
Naturally, we were proud.
Not just of the achievement tags but the fact that these little girls who had been displaced from their natural habitat were finally back where they belonged.
So when we got the news that one of ‘our’ girls had become a mother, we were beside ourselves.
This was literally history in the making – first rehabilitated rhino gives birth in the wild in India.
Almost a decade of hard work had paid off for us.
Celebrations were on in Manas and Ganga’s baby, who turned out to be a girl, was christened ‘Dharati’, which means earth.
Almost a month later, we had barely stopped talking about Dharati and the little miracle that she is, when another astounding piece of news was delivered to us- Mainao was a mother!
To have one rehabilitated rhino give birth in the wild was big by itself, but two was definitely better!
Nostalgia hit us hard that day.
Mainao being the first rhino to be rescued in 2002, the year IFAW-WTI run centre was established, held a special place in our hearts. We were all in our learning phase… I know I was! That little two-week old baby was welcomed and loved by all the vets and animal keepers like it was their first child… delicate, fragile--to be handled with extreme care!
And now, she was a mother herself, responsible for a new life.
The news kept flying back and forth. Discussion on the implications of the births couldn’t stop. Mother Nature was probably laughing at our excitement, seeing us jumping for joy like little children. She soon had a third stork visiting us a month later.
Jamuna was spotted after a hiatus of two days, with a little baby by her side!
With all three of our girls having successfully given birth in the wild, we had that last piece of evidence to prove that orphaned rhinos need not be packed off to lifetime care…that they could go back to the wild…that we could send them back to the wild.
There couldn’t be bigger proof than the three beautiful babies born in the wild that these endeavors are worth every sleepless night spent worrying about them, every single drop of sweat spent trying to rescue them, and of course the incredible rush of joy and pride felt when you see them coming into their own.
It had begun as an attempt to save one animal in 2002. By 2006, it had turned into a bigger programme – to help save the species, as these rhinos were moved to Manas, beginning reintroduction of the species that was wiped out locally about a decade or so ago.
In addition to the five hand-reared calves from our wildlife rescue centre, more rhinos – moved from the wild, now roam Manas.
I feel extremely blessed to have been part of such ventures for the past decade, which have allowed me to experience life in such miraculous and invaluable ways.
And I thank our supporters from around the world, who have made it possible.