Six Orphaned Asian Elephants Nearing Return to The Wild
It's a true privilege to be back in Assam, India. I missed the tea gardens that sprawl out in every direction, I missed the spicy food, I even missed the adrenaline-high of simply taking a drive and weaving past incoming cars, trucks, bicycles, dogs, cows.?
But most of all, I am glad to meet old friends at the IFAW Wildlife Rescue Center, both human and animal.
A few seconds after arriving, our colleague from the Wildlife Trust of India, Rathin Barman pointed out to the white board placed against a wall. Written down were the names of all the animal 'guests'. It's a busy time at the Center, they have anything from rescued snakes, gibbon, deer, Indian gaur and of course six Greater one-horned rhinos and nine Asian elephants. Of course, come Sunday that number will change when we move five of the orphan elephants from the Center in Kaziranga to their new home at Manas National Park.
Today, we got up early this morning to see them. One of the highlights is witnessing the bottle-feeding process of the baby elephants and rhinos that drink half a gallon in one long and noisy gulp. The baby elephants are fed this way six times during the day and twice at night - it always amazes me to see the patience and care offered by the Center's staff. Yes, it's a very unique and rewarding job, rehabilitating orphan elephants. But try and do that every waking moment, day and night, rain or shine? It's a remarkable sacrifice.
As I joined Prasanta Das and Hareshwar on their feeding runs, I noticed that they didn't seem concerned about their ward's eminent departure. I asked them how they feel ahead of Sunday's big event and they smiled and acted as if everything was normal and was business as usual, but I knew better. The keepers and vets have spent years with the elephants and it's only natural that they will miss them profoundly when they part. Soni, Tikla, Sikom, Hamren, and Tinku, the five elephants that are spending their last moments under full-time care will now live their next decisive moments in the wild as they slowly adapt to their new lives.
From now 'til Sunday, they will no doubt get a few more treats and stretched-out interactions with their human keepers. They will probably wonder what the reason is for these barely perceptible changes. They will feel the anticipation in their two legged friends, but make little of it. One thing is for sure, out of all involved in the move, their keepers will be the first to offer comfort and reassurance.
So in just a few hours they will be stepping off the truck and will begin to explore their new home in the wild. Please stay tuned for more updates during and after the move and visit www.ifaw.org for more info on this and other animal rescues.