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Hand-raising elephant calves
Hand-raising orphan elephant calves, for rehabilitation into the wild



Kaziranga National Park in the northeast Indian state of Assam is a world heritage site, notified by the UNESCO in 1985. The park holds the world’s largest population of the greater one-horned rhinoceros and provides refuge to a large number of wild animals including the endangered Royal Bengal tiger and the Asian elephant.

Flanked by the Brahmaputra river towards its north, Kaziranga lies in the river’s flood plain and experiences annual flooding during monsoon. Although, these annual inundations play a significant role in maintaining the fertility of the habitat, they also regularly cause large scale temporary displacement of wild animals.

A herd of elephants get stranded in the floods in Kaziranga
A herd of elephants get stranded due to the floods in Kaziranga NP

With an average altitude of 60 m, the park offers very little escape for animals during floods. Although man-made highlands offer some relief to animals, many get washed away in the flood. Animals also get displaced in their attempt to escape to higher grounds, often young ones, unable to keep pace with their parents get left behind.

Beyond the park boundary, displaced animals are susceptible to conflicts with humans and sometimes fall prey to poachers. Many also fall victims to road accidents, especially along NH 37 that separates Kaziranga’s low-lying flooded grasslands from the wooded highlands of the Karbi Anglong hills to the south. Displacements also arise due to conflict with humans and animals being stranded in human-modified environment.


A rhino calf being bottle-fed by its foster mother in CWRC
A rhino calf being bottle-fed by an animal keeper in CWRC

A tiger cub is treated in CWRC
A tiger cub is treated in CWRC
The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) is the first rescue and rehabilitation centre near a protected area in India. Strategically located in Borjuri village adjacent to the Panbari Reserve Forest, near Kaziranga National Park in Assam, the centre attends to a wide range of wildlife emergencies resulting from natural or anthropogenic causes.

CWRC was established in August 2002 with a primary aim to stablise displaced animals and release them back into the wild, as close to the site of rescue as possible, following necessary treatment. The centre follows accepted international protocols and guidelines during rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of displaced or distressed patients.

Animal keepers at CWRC attempt to restrain a wreathed hornbill for treatmentDr Prasanta Boro examines a deer displaced by floods in Kaziranga
Left: Animal keepers attempt to restrain an injured wreathed hornbill for treatment
Right: Dr Prasanta Boro examines a deer displaced due to floods in Kaziranga

CWRC is managed by two wildlife veterinarians with the assistance of six attendants, who are trained to handle wild animals. It has essential veterinary infrastructure including an examination clinic, a surgery theatre and an evolving preliminary disease investigation laboratory. It also has spacious holding shelters for birds, reptiles, ungulates and primates, enclosures for big cats and nurseries for mega-herbivores.

Swamp deer rescue by MVS Central Assam
MVS Central Assam unit rescues and relocates a swamp deer from Rojabari for release in Kaziranga NP

A Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) comprising an all-terrain vehicle equipped with necessary medical supplies to attend to wildlife emergencies, is stationed at CWRC. A vital component of the CWRC, the MVS-Central Assam unit helps reach in-situ medical aid to stranded, displaced, or distressed animals. This is in addition to its role as an ambulance facilitating the movement of animals to the centre or back to the wild.

While most animals brought to CWRC are temporarily-displaced, a number of them require long-term acclimatisation for rehabilitation, or even lifetime care. The latter includes young individuals which are hand-raised at CWRC and relocated to a suitable site for acclimatisation and subsequent release in the wild.

Bottle-feeding barking deer fawnsBarking deer fawns being bottle-fed
Hand-raising barking deer fawns

As a rule, with young individuals, attempts (some lasting for weeks) are made to reunite them with their mothers, before they are considered subjects for long-term rehabilitation. Several displaced elephant calves have been reunited with their natal herds soon after separation. CWRC has played host to a number of young animals notably orphaned rhinos, elephants, tigers, leopards, Asiatic black bears, badgers, jungle cats, leopard cats, owls etc. A number of these animals have been successfully hand-raised and rehabilitated back in the wild. Post-release monitoring of rehabilitated individuals belonging to key species is facilitated by radio-transmitters fitted on collars.

Elephant calves wallow in a pond in CWRCElephant calves during a walk in the wild
Left: Elephant calves at CWRC, wallow in a pond within the campus
Right: The calves being taken for their daily walks in the wild for acclimatisation

A joint-venture of the International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) and Assam Forest Department, the CWRC was constructed with the support of the Animal Welfare Division, Government of India. It is recognised by the Centre Zoo Authority (CZA).

Several satellite rescue projects run under CWRC. These include Rhino Rehabilitation, Elephant Rehabilitation, Bear Rehabilitation, Mobile Veterinary Services, Dibru-Saikhowa Wild Buffalo Rehabilitation and Clouded Leopard Rehabilitation.


A leopard in the big cat enclosure in CWRC
A leopard in the big cat enclosure in CWRC
  • Since its inception in August 2002, the centre has attended to more than 1100 cases of temporarily and permanently displaced animals covering 130 different species. Nearly 50 % of the animals brought to CWRC have been successfully released back into the wild following treatment in temporary captivity.

    Hog badger hand-raised and released in CWRC
    A hog-badger, hand-raised and rehabilitated in CWRC
  • The centre currently houses more than 20 rescued individual wild animals (as of July 2009). These include seven Asian elephant calves, two rhino calves, a Royal Bengal tiger cub, an Asiatic black bear cub, etc, which are under various stages of rehabilitation.

  • The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Assam Forest Department have finalised setting up a CWRC Transit Home in Kokrajhar to temporarily house displaced wild animals. The foundation stone was laid on July 11, 2009, by Kampa Borgoyari, Deputy Chief, BTC. The sub-centre will be an upgradation of the field station of the Lower Assam MVS unit, which has been functional since December 2005.

  • Two wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) calves hand-raised at CWRC were translocated to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Upper Assam, in December 2006. One of the calves was rescued during the floods in Kaziranga in 2002 while the other was found abandoned in 2003. They are currently undergoing acclimatisation in confinement in a spacious boma created within the protected area, and will soon be released in the wild.

  • Clouded leopard being hand-raised at the MVS field station in Kokrajhar, Assam
    One of the clouded leopards being hand-raised at the MVS Lower Assam field station
    A pair of rare clouded leopard cubs are being hand-raised at the MVS Lower Assam field station in Kokrajhar by the BTC, Assam Forest Department, and IFAW-WTI. The cubs will soon be moved to Kachugaon Forest Division, Assam, for the next phase of this unprecedented rehabilitation attempt in India. The cubs, both males, will undergo a prolonged period of on-site acclimatisation before they are set free into the wild.


Hand-raised rhinos released in the wild in Manas following acclimatisation in the enclosure
One of the three rhinos, hand-raised at CWRC and relocated to Manas NP for acclimatisation, examines the gate of the acclimatisation enclosure, during their release into the wild

  • Three orphaned rhino calves, rescued from the floods in Kaziranga and hand-raised at CWRC were relocated to Manas National Park for an unprecedented re-introduction attempt, beginning in February 2006. In Manas, the calves were confined in a spacious boma (enclosure) in the release site, for gradual acclimatisation. They were released in the wild in November 2008. Manas, a UNESCO world heritage site and a Tiger Reserve, had lost its entire population of about 100 rhinos to poachers during the political unrest.

  • Six Asian elephant calves rescued under various circumstances were hand-raised at CWRC and were relocated to Manas NP for reintegration into wild herds. They are currently under various stages of reintegration. Three of the calves now survive in the wild, independent of their human foster mothers. They are remotely monitored with the help of radio-transmitters.

  • A number of displaced elephant calves have been reunited with the natal herd, soon after their separation.

  • A number of orphaned Asiatic black bear cubs rescued from different parts of Assam and hand-raised at CWRC have been relocated to the IFAW-WTI run Centre for Bear Rehabilitation and Conservation (CBRC) in Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manas National Park, for rehabilitation.  

Asiatic black bear being hand-raised in CWRC
Hand-raising an orphan Asiatic black bear cub



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