India appeals for help for baby rhinos rescued in floods

A rescued rhino calf is transported to safety after being found by IFAW-WTI wildlife officials and volunteers in flood waters on July 27, 2016.
A rescued rhino calf is transported to safety after being found by IFAW-WTI wildlife officials and volunteers in flood waters on July 27, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

GUWAHATI, India (AFP) - Indian wildlife officers appealed on Tuesday (Aug 2) for help in caring for eight rare baby rhinos feared orphaned by recent deadly floods in the remote northeast.

Rescue teams in boats have pulled the stranded rhinos from floodwaters which have hit India's famed Kaziranga National Park, home to the world's largest population of the one-horned animals.

Rathin Barman, deputy director of the Wildlife Trust of India, said they were now struggling to feed and care for the rhinos, aged from one to eight months.

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

"We will release them only after two years," he added of the eight.

"We appeal to the public to donate money for the upkeep of the rescued babies. They drink six packs of milk a day which cost 1,500 rupees (S$30) and this will continue for a minimum of one year," he said.

It was unclear whether the calves were left orphaned by the floods or were separated from their mothers as the beasts tried to flee to higher ground.

Seventeen adult rhinos along with deer and other animals have been found drowned in Kaziranga, a 430-square-kilometre protected area of forest in the state of Assam.

"It is sad that we lost about 17 rhinos in the floods this time, which is something unprecedented," Assam forest minister Pramilla Rani Brahma told AFP on Tuesday.

The park, home to about 2,500 rhinos, draws scores of tourists and was visited by Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate during their official tour of India earlier this year.

Barman said he feared more rhinos would need assistance once waters receded in the park, which has been stripped of vegetation by the floods.

The floods that hit the region every year have killed at least 24 people in Assam and left another 2.3 million homeless in recent days, said state flood control minister Keshab Mahanta.

Scores more have been killed in floods and landslides in the state of Bihar and in neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh.