Way back in 2004 when a devastating flood had ravaged Kaziranga National Park, Ganga – then a two-month old rhino calf – was almost washed away, had it not been for volunteers of the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and. Conservation (CWRC) who rescued her and shifted her to safety and brought her up. Thirteen years later, Ganga – the name given at CWRC – is a proud grandmother, the first grandmother rhino tracked in a wild habitat.
“Ganga was brought to Manas National Park in as part of an ambitious rhino rehabilitation programme after rhino population here had become zero for various reasons. While we have on record that she had given birth to her first calf in the wild in 2013, that calf became a mother a few days ago, thus elevating Ganga to a grandmother,” Bhaskar Choudhury, regional head of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said.
This is the first time a rhino belonging to the wild in India has been officially recorded as having become a grandmother, Choudhury, a vet by profession, said. “The new-born calf was first noticed by the frontline protection staff of Manas on Wednesday, and since the number of rhinos here is less and are under constant monitoring, we are now officially certain that the new-born calf is a grand-child of Ganga,” he added.
While Ganga, born in Kaziranga and rescued during the 2004 floods from the Bagori range there to be reared in the CWRC at Panbari (in Kaziranga) for three years before being rehabilitated in Manas in 2007, she had given birth to her first calf in 2013. “It is this first offspring of Ganga who has given birth to a calf in the past few days,” Choudhury said.
With the arrival of a new calf, Manas National Park – tagged as a World Heritage Site by Unesco – now has 32 rhinos, with an elated Park director Hiranya Kumar Sarma saying the number of calves prove that things had drastically improved in the past few years. “Manas has come a long way from being devastated by armed insurgency and violence in the early 1990s. That more rhino calves have been born in recent years prove that Manas has really recovered and is in good health now,” Sarma said.
The rhino population in Manas was totally wiped out in the early 1990s with Unesco putting a “in-danger” prefix to its World Heritage Site tag in 1992. With the government launching an ambitious programme under Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV) to raise the total rhino population across Assam to 3000, a number of rhinos were shifted to Manas from 2006 onwards.
While 10 rhinos were shifted to Manas from the CWRC in Kaziranga, 18 others were translocated wild-to-wild from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in the past few years. “Though four of the CWRC rhinos had died of natural reasons and 10 of the wild-to-wild rhinos were killed by poachers, we are proud that the number of rhinos are fasting increasing here,” Manas Park director Sarma said.