In a tale tinged with sorrow, a rescued baby Indian rhino overcomes the aftermath of a brutal tiger attack, embodying resilience and hope

Image © IFAW

It’s not every day that a rhino shows up in your rice paddy … Staff at the IFAW Wildlife Rescue Centre were recently called out when a critically injured baby rhino was found lying in the backyard of a house in rural northeast India. Unable to move on its own, the three-month-old calf had suffered severe injuries from an attack by a tiger. After receiving some immediate medical treatment, the injured one-horned rhino was taken to the IFAW rescue centre for further care.

Despite deep, maggot-filled wounds on the calf’s head and legs, the young rhino is responding well to treatment, according to Dr Panjit Basumatary, a veterinarian who is leading the efforts to save the calf. The IFAW Wildlife Rescue Centre in India has dealt with 32 cases of displaced rhino calves to date, including three rhino orphans that were radio-collared and released into Manas National Park.

In Photos: Baby Indian rhino rescued after tiger attack | Predator vs Prey | Earth Touch News

Tiger attacks on rhinos are not unheard of. Bengal tigers are known to prey on rhino calves and in some cases even adult rhinos make an appearance on the menu. Indian rhinos are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, while tigers are classified as ‘Endangered’.

Image © IFAW

He is reportedly responding well to treatment.

This is not an unusual encounter. Cheetahs and Sambhars (a type of deer) are the preferred prey of tigers. Yet young and vulnerable rhino calves have been occasionally targeted. In Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, which shelters the biggest population of rhinos, about 15 to 20 rhino cubs are killed by tigers each year.

Image © IFAW

Nepal’s Chitwan Park and the Dudwhua National Park have also reported similar incidences.

What is most out of the ordinary are attacks on adult rhinos. It is “somewhat against the normal hunting pattern” according to Ganesh Bhar, the deputy director of DDR. Within the past few years there have been a handful of attacks, and resulting deaths to rhinos.

Image © IFAW

It is unclear why tigers would attack an adult rhino. Territory disputes? Reduction of prey in the area? Increased tiger population resulting in more competition for prey? Is poaching responsible for tiger’s appetite for adult rhinos?

But what is clear is there is now a conflict of conservation, as both the Indian Rhino and Bengal Tiger are endangered. In the battle to secure a future for both species, it is quite disturbing and proves to be a complex issue to keep them safe from man and from each other.

Image © IFAW

Image © IFAW

The rhino calf that we saved last November took his first little steps in the open, exploring his paddock at Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) in Kaziranga, India.

The rhino had had several injuries inflicted by a tiger attack. One was on his left foreleg and pus was oozing from a swelling at the base of its horn. The team rushed him back to CWRC for triage and then a long-term course of medication, dressing and healing.

On the long road to recovery, animal keeper Prasanta Das assiduously cleaned the wounds and treated the calf as a foster mother would. I monitored his healing wounds and provided necessary treatment.

Image © IFAW

In due course, three splinters of the broken bone gradually came out of the calf’s pelvic joint and the wounds healed without any major surgical intervention. After losing the offending splinters he reacts as if he got a new lease on life.

We introduced him to the paddock with some apprehension, to see how he would move and use his healed foot. All our fears were unfounded: He immediately started exploring the open surroundings, even running around.

Image © IFAW

Image © IFAW

Sia

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