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Hand-reared rhino makes history - gives birth in the wild


Watch the story of the new mother, Ganga, and her newborn named Dharathi

Manas (Bodoland), April 22, 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 (read her story here), 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 IFAW-WTI

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.

Vivek Menon, Executive Director, WTI, and Regional Director – South Asia, IFAW, said, “This is very special for all of us. The situation of rhinos across the world has been depressing, with so many 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. NK Vasu, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director – Kaziranga, 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 traumatised, 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 now Dharati, are 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.

Ganga and Dharati

Ganga, and now Dharati, are a part of the rhino reintroduction programme in Manas National Park, kickstarted in 2006

Kampa Borgoyari, Deputy Chief, BTC 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.”

Photos: Bhaskar Choudhury/IFAW-WTI


Ganga’s story


A file photo of Ganga with a keeper at CWRC soon after she had been rescued from the floods in Assam


Ganga was rescued as a three-month old calf during the annual floods in the Kaziranga National Park on 14 July, 2004, by the Assam Forest Department. She was being washed away in the floods when forest staff based at Baghmara camp saw her in the Roumari Beel of Bagori Range. They alerted the Director of the park, and quickly went on a boat and rescued her. The team searched for her mother but could not find her.

The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation’s (CWRC) veterinarian, who was attending a rescued hog deer close to this site immediately rushed to the western range office of Kaziranga. After providing the calf with first aid she was then transported and admitted to CWRC near Kaziranga for hand-raising and rehabilitation.

Admission at CWRC

She was severely injured, dehydrated and traumatised, when admitted in the centre. She had severe respiratory problems and muscular fatigue. She was kept under intensive care at the CWRC and successfully treated.

Handraising and rehabilitation

Ganga shared the same enclosure with Jamuna, a rhino calf that was rescued from the floodwaters at Kaziranga just a week later (22nd July). Ganga was soon brought back to health by the care of the vets and keepers of the centre. Both calves grew up together and spent about two and half years in the centre.

Move to Manas

On 28th Jan 2007 Ganga along with Jamuna was moved from CWRC to Manas National Park for their next phase of rehabilitation ‘soft release’.

The rhinos were put into customised crates, loaded into trucks and set out for a 13-hour long journey to Manas. The next day they were released at the boma (a temporary enclosure) in the Bansbari Range of the park. They were confined in the spacious boma where they underwent gradual acclimatisation to the new environment. After the span of about 10 months in boma, she was radio collared to ensure the monitoring post release.


On 27 November 2007 following a pre-release assessment of the conditions in the park the boma gate was opened and the rhinos released into the wild.

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