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A Born Free story, with a rhino twist
- Nursed back to health at Kaziranga camp, eight-month-old calf released in Manas

Manas/Guwahati, Feb. 24: She was just one-and-a-half-years old when her mother was shot dead. Rescuers found her hiding in a ditch, dehydrated and in a state of shock, two days after she was orphaned.

Around 11am today, when the rhino calf walked out of a wooden crate into the wild, the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation patted itself for having successfully taken care of one the most critical cases it had handled in recent times.

The calf’s new home will be the Basbari Range of the Manas National Park, some 430km from Kaziranga, where she was nursed back to health.

“This was the most difficult case we had handled, as she had seen her mother being killed in front of her eyes. And she also had to survive for nearly three days in the wild all alone. When we found her, she was in a state of trauma,” Anjan Talukdar, an expert at the conservation centre said.

The calf’s mother was shot dead by poachers at Hatikhuli Tea Estate on the fringe of Kaziranga National Park on September 16 last year when she had moved out of her habitat to escape the rising waters.

Vivek Menon, executive director, Wildlife Trust of India, who was also at Manas today, described the moment as “nothing short of monumental in the current context of Indian conservation”.

The rhino calf, in fact, was not been named by the conservation officials to keep her as “wild” as possible.

Besides the calf, two elephants rescued from Karbi Anglong after floods were also rehabilitated in the Doimari range of Manas today.

“It was a moment of joy for us. We hope the rhino calf will have a secure life here,” A. Swargiary, field director of the Manas Tiger Reserve said.

The calf will be joining three other full-grown rhinos which were reintroduced earlier at Bansbari range of the national park.

The conservation centre, which arranged for the translocation, was established on the periphery of the Kaziranga National Park in 2002 by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with aid from the International Fund for Animal Welfare to cater to increasing number of displaced animals every year.

The “rehabilitation” programme was clubbed with another significant function at Manas today.

The park’s 500-square km area was today increased to around 950 square km. The declaration came from deputy chief of the BTC, Kampha Borgoyary, at the same function today.

Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985, Manas is home to the rare golden langur, the pygmy hog, wild buffaloes and five species of hornbills.

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