Glimpses of the rhino translocation from CWRC to the pre-release boma at Manas
CWRC, Kaziranga National Park, January 6, 2018: Three female rhino calves that were rescued during the devastating monsoon floods that hit Kaziranga National Park in 2016, and subsequently hand-raised at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation – CWRC; the wildlife rescue, care and rehabilitation facility jointly run by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Assam Forest Department – were translocated this morning to Manas National Park for eventual rehabilitation into the wild.
The three calves had been rescued from floodwaters in the Haldibari, Deopani and Sildubi areas adjacent to Kaziranga through the efforts of local people, the Assam Forest Department, and CWRC’s Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) unit in July 2016. Yesterday afternoon, following final health checks by IFAW-WTI veterinarians, they were loaded onto individual transportation vehicles. A convoy of the three vehicles, accompanied by MVS and forest department vehicles, began the 370-kilometre road journey from CWRC to Manas at 5.30pm.
As the translocation operation got underway, Mr Rohini Ballave Saikia, Divisional Forest Officer, Kaziranga National Park said: “The translocation of these rhinos will add to the existing rhino gene pole of Manas National Park and will also open up more avenues for research as their behaviour in the new landscape is studied.”
The three rhino calves will be carefully monitored in the pre-release boma at Manas for a period and eventually, once properly acclimatised, released into the wild.
CWRC’s lead veterinarian Dr Panjit Basumatary, veterinarian Dr Samshul Ali, and a team of animal keepers had all cared for the three calves from the moment they were brought to the centre. Speaking on behalf of the team, Dr Basumatary said: “It is a matter of great pleasure for us at CWRC that with the whole-hearted support of the Assam Forest Department and countless wildlife lovers and well-wishers, we have been able to hand-raise these rescued calves. Now, we are on the verge of releasing them back to the wild in Manas National Park in keeping with our established rhino rehabilitation protocol.”
Travelling at speeds not exceeding 40-50kmph (given road conditions and winter fog), the convoy arrived at Manas at 5.30am. The rhinos were transferred from the transportation vehicles to a pre-release boma between 7.30am and 8.00am, in the presence of Justice Ajit Singh, Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court; Assam’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Head of Forest Force Mr B Brahma; the Field Director of Manas National Park Mr HK Sarma; other senior forest department officials and the IFAW-WTI team.
“The translocation has been successful and the calves are none the worse for wear following their long journey”, said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, WTI’s Head Veterinarian (North East) and Head of the IFAW-WTI Greater Manas Conservation Project. “They will be carefully monitored in the boma for a period and eventually, once we are certain they are properly acclimatised, released into the wild. They will be the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth rhinos rehabilitated into Manas by IFAW-WTI, marking another significant milestone in our efforts to restore the national park to its former glory.”
IFAW and WTI have been working in concert with the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Assam Forest Department since 2003 to ‘Bring Back Manas’, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose flora and fauna were ravaged by militancy through the late 1980s and 1990s. The rehabilitation of flood-rescued rhinos into Manas is one part of this long-term project and has seen great success, with six calves having been born in the wild to rehabilitated rhinos thus far.