First Time in India, Hand-Reared Rhino Gives Birth in the Wild

In a happy news for Earth Day 2013, a rhino, hand-reared by people and rehabilitated in Manas National Park as part of the species reintroduction programme, has given birth in the wild, for the first time in the country. The new mother, Ganga, was rescued as a three-month-old calf during the annual floods in Kaziranga National Park in July 2004, by the Assam Forest Department. She was hand-raised by veterinarians and animal keepers at the IFAW-WTI run Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) near Kaziranga.

The new born is a healthy female and has been named Dharati, meaning earth, as a tribute. Dharati’s birth marks a milestone in the Rhino Rehabilitation Project, a joint venture of the Assam Forest Department and International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) that hand-raises orphaned or displaced calves to rehabilitate them in the wild. Executive Director, WTI, and Regional Director – South Asia, IFAW, Vivek Menon,  said, “This is very special for all of us. The situation of rhinos across the world has been depressing, with so many being poached for their horns in the past year. In this seemingly-bleak scenario, the instances like this are what keep us optimistic and spirited to do more.”

“There are more than one reason why this birth is special, not just for the people involved directly, but for the entire region and even the country,” he added. For one, Ganga was hand-raised by people. Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director – Kaziranga, NK Vasu, who was present during her rescue, said, “Our staff based at Baghmara camp rescued her from the floods. We searched for her mother but could not find her. So we admitted her to CWRC. Her condition was quite bad then, but all the efforts that went into her have finally been rewarded.”

Dr Rathin Barman, Senior Adviser, WTI, and CWRC In-charge, recalled, “She was severely injured and traumatized, and our veterinarians and animal keepers worked hard to save her. Her birth exemplifies the balance of wildlife welfare and conservation that CWRC is known for.” Ganga, and nowDharati, is a part of the rhino reintroduction programme in Manas National Park, kickstarted in 2006, with the move of the first hand-raised calf from CWRC. Manas had lost all its rhinos by the 1990s as the area reeled under severe civil conflict. It was also declared a World Heritage Site in danger. A number of initiatives including the rhino reintroduction have been implemented here since peace was largely restored in early 2000s. In 2011, the ‘in danger’ tag was lifted by UNESCO. “Ganga was one of the first rhinos to reach Manas. This birth marks yet another crucial milestone in our efforts to bring Manas back to its former glory,” said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Regional Head, IFAW-WTI.

Deputy Chief, BTC, Kampa Borgoyari, said, “I congratulate the frontline staff who saved her from drowning, and the entire team of veterinarians, animal keepers and biologists, for successfully treating her, hand-raising her and finally releasing her in Manas. We are still facing difficulties in wildlife conservation, but we are also achieving successes. While we continue to fight against the difficulties, we will also use these moments to celebrate and vow to do more.”

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