Orphaned rhino struggles to survive after mother killed

Posted on April, 05 2013

An Indian rhino calf that lost its mother to poachers is clinging to life with the help of WWF.
An Indian rhino calf that lost its mother to poachers is clinging to life with the help of conservationists, according to WWF staff assisting with its care. The two week old male is in critical condition after its mother was gunned down by poachers Tuesday and her horn chopped off.

The shocking incident is the latest in a surge of poaching plaguing India’s Assam province where 16 greater one-horned rhinos have been killed already this year.

A team of frontline staff from WWF, the government and partner organizations joined community members to search Manas National Park for the orphan after the carcass of its mother was discovered earlier this week. The group was determined to prevent the calf’s death imminent from starvation, which would surely occur without the nourishment of its mother’s milk.

The dehydrated and traumatized calf was located, captured and brought to a safe location for urgent veterinary care. Images of the confused newborn show it cowering in the corner of a store room where it is being held temporarily.

“It was a challenge getting hold of the calf as it was very scared but thankfully it is fine and doing well now,” said WWF’s Deba Dutta who was part of the rescue team.

However, the calf’s survival is not assured. The animals are highly dependent on their mothers for the first few years of life. Work will soon begin on a special fenced enclosure, or boma, for the calf so that it can be raised by rehabilitation experts. It is possible, but challenging, to successfully reintroduce rhinos to the wild.

Rhinos across their Asian and African ranges are being decimated at record rates by poachers and criminal traffickers. Killing has surged in recent years just as rhino horn has become a prized commodity in Viet Nam where it is marketed as miracle cure for everything from cancer to hangovers. Viet Nam has done little to crackdown on the illegal trade or curb demand by dispelling such rumours, which have no medical basis.

Opportunistic criminals are now targeting rhinos reintroduced into India’s Manas National Park by WWF and its Indian Rhino Vision 2020 partners. Four of the 18 rhinos moved there have been killed for their horns.

“In Manas National Park itself, monitoring, patrolling, intelligence and protection regimes need to be strengthened and implemented on ground in a time-bound, verifiable and accountable manner,” said Dr. Dipankar Ghose, Director of WWF-India’s Species and Landscapes Programme.

WWF strongly condemns the rhino killings and renews its call to source, transit and consumer countries to increase protection and law enforcement.

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A two week old rhino orphan is being looked after by conservationists.
© WWF-India
Community members joined WWF in the rescue effort out of concern for the calf's survival.
© WWF-India
The calf would have surely died without its mother if not taken to safety.
© WWF-India
The calf was dehydrated and afraid after its mother was killed by poachers.
© WWF-India