Kaziranga Flood Update: Rescue centre inundated with rescued rhino calves

An MVS Vehicle transports a rescued rhino to the rescue centre for stabilisation and care. Photo: © Subhamoy Bhattacharjee/ IFAW-WTISix rhino calves rescued from the monsoon floods in Kaziranga National Park over the last three days have been admitted to the Large Animal Nursery at IFAW-WTI’s Wildlife Rescue Centre for stabilisation and treatment.

As reported earlier, Kaziranga is facing a major wildlife crisis this year as almost 90 percent of its area is completely inundated in what are being described as the worst floods in a decade.

Four Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) units – three from the Kaziranga rescue centre and one from its sister centre in Diphu in Karbi Anglong– have been deployed to run round-the-clock rescue and wildlife crisis mitigation operations in the worst affected ranges of the park.

Following the rescue of a three-month-old male rhino calf on July 26, a yearling female rhino was rescued the same day by locals in the Sildubi area of Kaziranga’s Bagori Forest Range, and brought to the Kaziranga rescue centre by an MVS team with the assistance of frontline forest staff.

Yesterday was an especially hectic day for the MVS teams as four rhino calves were successfully rescued from the floods and admitted to the wildlife rescue centre for further care. These included two female calves found in separate rescue incidents, again in the upland areas of Sildubi in the Bagori Range. Another female rhino calf, nearly six months old, was rescued from National Highway 37 late in the evening.

The most dramatic rescue of the day took place in the afternoon at Diphalu Pathar Dergayan Gaon, a flood-affected village.

Earlier that morning a villager had spotted a male rhino calf, approximately six months old, trying desperately to find higher ground in the flood waters.

“All households here have their own boats since the area is flood prone”, Mr Gogoi said. “We somehow managed to drag the calf and tie it to a tree in front of a house. It only had a small space to stand but it was safe from the flood waters for the time being.

An IFAW-WTI MVS team – veterinarian Dr Samshul Ali accompanied by animal keepers Lakhiram Das and Ramen Das – reached the spot having navigated through inundated villages on two country boats. The boats were lashed together and the calf placed on one, with people acting as a counterweight on the other boat. The journey back was precarious to say the least, but the animal was successfully transported through the flood waters back to the MVS vehicle.

An MVS team uses country boats to get a rescued rhino back to safety through the raging flood waters. Photo: © Subhamoy Bhattacharjee/ IFAW-WTI“This was a first-of-its-kind rhino calf rescue in the present flood phase”, said Dr Ali, who sustained a minor injury in the rescue operation. “We had to be very cautious with our handling of the animal, particularly during the boat journey.” 

The courage and empathy of the flood-affected villagers deserves special mention here. The entire village came together, setting aside their own predicament, to save a baby animal.

The influx has forced staff to shift the nursery’s five previous occupants, all elephant calves, to an adjoining outdoor stockade where a makeshift shelter is being constructed for them.

Two of the rescued rhino calves at the rescue center’s Large Animal Nursery. Photo: © Subhamoy Bhattacharjee/ IFAW-WTIAll rescued calves are being closely monitored at the rescue centre’s Large Animal Nursery. Understandably, they are highly stressed at present and have not been responding well to formula milk, which is unfamiliar to them.

The veterinarians have been providing the requisite medications however, and are hopeful that the animals will begin to feed as they become acclimated to their new surroundings.

--SB 

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