Kokrajhar (Bodoland, Assam): Separated from their mothers, and brought under human care as young cubs, two rare clouded leopards and four Asiatic black bears are on their way back to the wild in Greater Manas.
The cubs were moved today from the CWRC (Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation) Transit Home in Kokrajhar, to Kachugaon Forest Division to begin the next phase in their ‘soft- release’ with the assistance of the eco-development wing of the Indian Army.
“The principle of soft-release entails allowing the young cubs to learn the ways of survival in the wild over a period of time, with humans as their foster mothers,” said Dr Panjit Basumatary, IFAW-WTI veterinarian, in-charge of the cubs’ rehabilitation.
The cubs were confiscated in three different instances by the Assam Forest Department, from locals who found the cubs alone and picked them up from the wild. The clouded leopards were found in Chirang and brought to the Transit Home with the assistance of New Horizon. The bear cubs were brought from Udalguri and Nalbari districts by the authorities assisted by IFAW-WTI and Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society respectively.
“Nature belongs to each one of us. People should not hold ourselves above other living things and have no right to drive them to extinction. To save wildlife requires positive action; it requires change in lifestyle, attitude and perception. This rehabilitation attempt is one such positive action – maybe small but significant. However, our prime objective is to make everyone nature-literate,” said MC Brahma, Divisional Forest Officer – Wildlife, Kokrajhar.
All the cubs were hand-raised at the BTC-IFAW-WTI run CWRC Transit Home. Now, at the release site in Kachugaon FD, the cubs will undergo a prolonged on-site acclimatisation.
The strategy for the release of these two species differs, explains Dr NVK Ashraf, Chief Veterinarian, WTI. “Clouded leopards are carnivores and nocturnal. Their soft release is more complicated as it requires both day and night time walks and learning hunting instinctively without having seen their mother in action. Asiatic black bears however are omnivores and are relatively easier to release, as foraging comes naturally to them.”
They will be accompanied by their respective keepers who will accompany them for walks in the wild and withdraw gradually. After about six to eight months when they show signs of independence, they will be radio collared which will help in post release monitoring.
“The cubs begin to learn various skills including hunting during hand-raising at the Transit Home. At the release site, they find opportunities to try out their skills and improve on it, and understand their new home under the care of their foster mothers,” added Dr Basumatary.
IFAW-WTI has earlier assisted the Assam Forest Department authorities in successful hand-raising and release of two clouded leopards, and 15 Asiatic black bears including three in Manas, in addition to elephant and rhino calves. However, IFAW-WTI stresses that while wildlife rehabilitation is a band-aid solution to return the displaced animals to the wild, the problem needs to be addressed at the grassroots to reduce the number of animals displaced from the wild.