Raging floods that started on July 25th as a result of annual monsoon rains have submerged up to 80 percent of India’s Kaziranga National Park, in the northeastern state of Assam. Over two hundred animals – including 17 rhinos – have died from flooding. Despite the dire circumstances, wildlife officials have managed to save nine adult one-horned rhinoceros and eight calves in the days since the flood hit.

Eight rhino calves, which have been separated from their mothers and range in age from one to eight months old, are being cared for by the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation which is co-run by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Assam Forest Department.

"Some of them are injured and are being treated by our staff in the rescue centre," WTI director Rathin Barman told AFP. "We are right now hand-raising them, providing them formula milk and essential vitamins." 

The team has released a plea for donations from the public to help care for the orphaned rhinos. "They drink six packs of milk a day and this will continue for a minimum of one year," Barman says. Without help, the centre will have to find an alternative home for the rescued calves.

"They are also suffering from severe trauma from the floods," adds Barman. "We are hopeful that all of them will be fine very soon."

At least 270 animals have already perished as a result of the flood and wildlife officials are concerned that animals may stray from the inundated park, putting them at risk of being hit by speeding vehicles and making them especially easy targets for poachers. A rhino was recently filmed wandering down a busy highway in Assam after it strayed from the park in search of dry land.

About two thirds of the one-horned rhino population, which is estimated to number just 3,500 individuals worldwide, live in Kaziranga. So every rescue attempt is critical.

Officials have also managed to save over 100 other animals, including swamp deer and hog deer, who were hit hardest by the recent floodwaters. 

Reports suggest that the Brahmaputra River has started to return to its normal water level; however, some 30 percent of the 166-square-mile (430-square-kilometre) park remains underwater. 

Although, this year's floods, described as the worst to hit the area in a decade, have had a devastating effect on the local wildlife, they are essential in restoring the park's vast greenland ecosystem. The rich soil from the river basin will help support new life in the World Heritage Site.  

“In a way, the flood is a blessing as fresh silt and alluvium deposits increase the productivity of the forest undergrowth,” Suvasish Das, the park’s District Forest Officer, told The Hindu. "While it is a huge problem for the people, such flooding is good for the park’s health."

We'll be updating you as the story unfolds. For more on how to help, head to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation website.


Top header image: Jussi Mononen

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