Philip Dev is now 28 months old and has crossed his 2nd year in the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) campus. He was rescued from a ravine in Ouguri Range as a newborn - wounded and weak, and had been in intensive care on arrival to CWRC. In the beginning, Philip’s time was occupied by round-the-clock care from the caretakers. He had regular wound dressings, treatments, and two hourly milk feeds; besides tucked into bed in the nursery every night - a far cry from the Philip of today! Philip today spends most of his day exploring the forests with some of the older calves. When he is in back in the CWRC campus, he interacts with the younger calves. Philip, who was being mentored by the older calves in the past, can now be observed mentoring the calves younger to him!
Not the only male in the herd anymore!
The CWRC elephant group has had a new addition in July. For a long time Philip was the only male among the calves being rehabilitated. On the 26th of July, a male elephant calf rescued from Hojai was admitted to the centre, and is now slowly being introduced to the rest of the group. As the veterinarians and keepers observed the newcomer, they noted that though he was bullied and pushed around a little initially, it wasn’t long before Philip and the other elephants accepted him as a part of the herd.
Philip’s interaction with the other elephants at CWRC
Philip spends most of his day in the jungle with other elephants - Rani and Tora, accompanied by a keeper looking over them. Here they graze for all day returning to the CWRC campus in the evening. Philip, Rani and Tora have now outgrown the night nurseries and spend their nights in the outdoor elephant paddock. This area is surrounded by electric fencing to protect the calves and is enriched with branches and leaves of edible plants in different corners. The keepers have even started tying leafy branches onto trees to encourage the calves to forage and explore their surroundings - this is a big step for the three calves. The calves are now being weaned off human dependence as they have started spending more time in a natural habitat, with less human interaction. Here, they will not only learn from each other but also from their instincts.
It was observed that all the calves seem to be spending more time in anticipating their milk feeds and consequently spend less time foraging. To encourage them to forage more, the frequency of milk feeds has been reduced to twice a day. Additionally, the morning concentrate feed has also been stopped after which the calves are spending more of their time in the forest feeding on creepers. Besides this, they also have a concentrate feed of Bengal gram powder, broken wheat, rice, soya bean powder, molasses, salt and bananas. This supplemental food is is given in the evening when the calves are let into the fenced off paddock for the night. The preparation is fortified with multivitamins, mineral mixture and probiotics. A recent fecal examination showed that Philip had developed a worm load and hence he was dewormed and being monitored closely by the vets. The fibroid growth on Philip’s right leg is still there but is not affecting his gait. It has, therefore, been left undisturbed as per the vet’s advice.
As always, Philip gets excited and pushes the others around, especially when he spots the keepers bringing his milk bottle to him. The vet at CWRC suggests that this food anticipatory behavior may reduce once he is weaned off milk. Also, the presence of the other calves is helping to curb this behavior as they take up a lot of Philip’s attention.
The calves, especially Philip, at CWRC are adapting gradually to the forest. He is growing quickly and learning from his surroundings. As per the protocol, Philip will be moved to the release site for soft release next year along with the other grown up calves of the herd.
Two-year-old Philip Dev has lost much of his baby Mohawk hairdo, but none of his wide-eyed wonder at the world around him and remains as inquisitive as ever. Philip’s tusks have finally emerged and have grown to about 5-6 cm. The fibroid on the knee still remains, but is not affecting him in any way and the vets are keeping a close watch on it. Philip spends almost all of his time with the other elephants at the centre - Rani, Jaklabanda, Tora and Lakhimi - spend their days in the CWRC grounds, playing with each other, bathing in the playpond, feeding on grasses and multigrain supplements, and of course, jostling each other during their bottle feeds.
The monsoons have set in across northeast India and dark grey skies are the norm now. In preparation for this weather, the calves have been de-wormed and extra attention is being paid to their food intake and defecation cycles. Also, since Philip did have a case of toenail infection some months earlier, care is being taken so that the infection does not recur with all the dampness in the air.
The elephant calves’ nursery has a newly laid floor and walls freshly painted with odourless paint. The earlier floor had cracked and chipped causing small pools of water to accumulate. This made it difficult to keep the floor clean and dry. The calves were temporarily shifted to another area while the maintenance work was in progress. Once they were moved back into the cheerful renovated nursery, the calves heartily approved of the change, rushing around to explore every corner.
Last August, CWRC celebrated 10 years of functioning. Since inception, nearly 2000 animals have come to the centre and most of them just required temporary care before being released. But some of the animals were young orphans, and so began IFAW-WTI’s quest to hand raise and rehabilitate them back to the wild. A very large part of the credit for the many success stories goes to the keepers who selflessly look after the young ones, sometimes for years in the case of elephants and rhino calves, and then bid them goodbye and goodluck as they return to the forests, knowing that they may never see them again. This report is also an acknowledgement of their contribution to the rehabilitation programme and gratitude for their dedication.
Let’s start with Bhadreshwar Das. Bhadreshwar joined the centre during its early days and has watched it grow to its current stature. When the very badly injured newborn Philip was brought in to CWRC in 2011, he was looked after by Bhadeshwar. Philip was so weak and traumatized that he was not able to stand for three days. During this time, Bhadreshwar was with him round the clock - changing dressings on his wounds, persuading him to drink milk, and generally comforting him. Bhadreshwar was in charge of Philip for the crucial first six months of his life at CWRC and instrumental in bringing him back from the brink. He is also very good with handraising rhino calves.
Tarun Gogoi – the first animal keeper in CWRC. From darting to administering medicine, to feeding animals, to coming up with new ideas for enclosure enrichment – Tarun does it all. One of the more observant of the keepers, he is so attuned to animals in his care that he is able to predict their behaviour.
Prashanta Das – is also called Bhini Bhaiyya. Nursing injured animals is his forte. He is also observant and especially good with taking care of small birds. With his talent for carpentry, he loves to make small nest boxes and perches out of scrap wood lying around and that keeps the birds very happy. There was an incident that a vet recently related where she was sitting in the administration room of the centre labouring over some accounts that had to be submitted urgently, when Bhini Bhaiyya burst into the room calling out to her, “Madamji, jaldi chalo!” (Madame, come quickly). When she asked him what the matter was, he happily replied, “Rhino baby ghaas kha raha hai, pehli baar!” (The rhino baby is eating grass for the first time.) Not just Bhini Bhaiyya, all of the keepers watch over their young charges carefully and are so very proud when a milestone is crossed.
Hemanta Das - He is one of the youngest keepers. Very enthusiastic and always ready for action – a very desirable trait during flood season. In fact, during last year’s floods, Hemanta took care of a very aggressive rhino and managed to calm it.
Lakhiram Das – Though our resident snake expert, Lakhiram gave us all many anxious days three years ago when he got himself bitten by a poisonous common krait outside his home and ended up in Intensive Care. It took him weeks to recover, but he was back at work as soon as he could. Lakhiram is a man of monosyllabic responses and tough looks and one would scarcely imagine a softer side to him. But he has been seen crooning baby talk to the very young animals in his care when he thought no one was watching.
Raju Kutumb is a comparatively new keeper and has spent a significant amount of time on night duty in winter. He is a very compassionate man and a perfect nanny to the baby animals. Every night, when he would come to the centre, the first thing he would do is go on his rounds of all the animals’ night shelters making sure that there was enough water and fresh grass, the young animals were well-wrapped in their blankets, and heaters were in place wherever required. This job would take him the better part of an hour and has to repeated 3-4 times through the night, depending on circumstances. A painstaking task indeed, but never once has Raju been known to take shortcuts with it.
Hareshwar Das – Also one of the youngest keepers, Hareshwar has a particular liking for rhinos and will always volunteer to look after any rhino coming to the centre.
Last, but definitely not least, is Mahadeo – the driver of the Mobile Veterinary Service ambulance stationed at CWRC. He is one of the earliest members of the team and has witnessed and oftentimes participated in all kinds of rescue operations. Even though he is not involved in the day-to-day care of the animals, he still inquires about their well-being, especially the ones that he remembers as being in a bad shape when he brought it in.
The keepers are all emotionally very attached to the charges as well as the centre. During the recent 10 year celebrations, the keepers had been asked to share their experiences in CWRC. Bhini Bhaiyya brought out the feeding bottle and teats that had been used to feed the first elephant calf to ever have been handraised at the centre. He has been preserving all the bottles and teats and even remembers which animal was fed out of which bottle. Some of the keepers were highly tickled by the fact that they have cleaned up more after their charges than after their own children.
Philip, Rani, Jaklabanda, Tora, Lakhimi, and all the other animals at CWRC owe a large part of their wellbeing to these hardworking men. We thank them for their selfless service and we thank you, our donor, for helping IFAW-WTI sustain this wonderful initiative.
Philip Dev is now 21 months old now and is the elephantine equivalent of a toddler. As he grows older he is losing his signature Mohawk hairdo but his antics still have his caregivers in splits. His excitement at the sight of his milk bottle is as great as ever and he will swing his trunk, wave his head to and fro and even push Rani and Nunai out of the way, just like an unruly child in the playground. There is no centre maintenance activity that the keepers can apply themselves to without an interested Philip jostling his way into the centre of action and sticking his trunk in.
But, the elephant calf with the most personality is still Nunai – the youngest one of the trio. She goes almost hysterical with joy at the sight of water, be it in a pond, a paddling pool, the drinking trough, a bucket, or even a trickle out of faulty faucet! There was one incident recently that the vet told us about where the trio had reached the indoor nursery before the keeper, but since the door was latched they could go into their rooms. Nunai found the coiled hosepipe that is used to wash down the nursery every day. She followed the coils to the tap and somehow managed to turn it on. When the keeper arrived, she was happily waving the hose in the air with water gushing out over all three of them, and Rani and Philip looked distinctly unhappy at the unexpected drenching.
Philip now has 21 liters of milk in 6 feeds in 24 hours – 4 feeds during the day and 2 at night, each feed consisting of 3.5 liters of reconstituted formula milk powder. At sundown, Philip, Rani and Nunai are brought into the indoor nursery as it is too cold for them to be out in the open. They have small rooms where each one is separately housed but can reach out with their trunks and touch each other over the partitioning walls. The rooms have fresh grass and water placed so the calves can nibble through the evening and night. Philip and Nunai will lie down on their side and sleep, but Rani is taller and prefers to sleep standing up leaning against a wall or a sloping surface. In the wild, adult elephants sleep on their feet while the young ones will lie down in the middle of the herd where they are secure.
Philip recently developed a toenail infection that was painful for him, so the vets performed a minor procedure where he was anesthetized and his toenails cleaned and trimmed. His feet were bandaged for a few days after that. He is now perfectly well and the infected toenails have healed. Otherwise, the calves are doing well now and Philip is steadily putting on the weight he had lost during his illness. The fibrotic growth at his left front knee is disturbingly prominent even if harmless, and the vets are keeping a close eye on it and will take action if it starts to interfere with his gait.
Philip, Rani and Nunai have another 2 years or so at CWRC before they are moved to Manas National Park for the second phase. Seeing these young ones at play in the security of CWRC, it is daunting to think of them as adult independent elephants in the wilds of Manas, but that is what we eventually hope to achieve with your support – give these young ones the dignity and freedom of a wild elephant.
Philip is now a year and a half old and almost halfway through the first stage of rehabilitation – handraising. Cocooned in the care of the keepers and vets, he spends his days in the company of Rani and Nunai in the sprawling grounds of CWRC.
CWRC - the rescue center that for Philip knows as home is a joint venture of the Assam Forest Department and IFAW-WTI. It was established with the support of the Animal Welfare Division, Govt. of India and is one of the few rescue centres recognized by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
Celebrating its tenth year now, CWRC was established in 2002 with the primary aim to stabilize displaced and orphaned wild animals, provide medical treatment if necessary, and release them back in the wild. The outreach of CWRC also dovetails into various wildlife health support activities including disease investigation, captive elephant care and immunization. Spread over 14.5 acres, CWRC has essential veterinary infrastructure including an examination room, a theatre for surgery and an evolving disease investigation laboratory. It also has spacious holding shelters to accommodate birds, reptiles, ungulates, primates, and big cats as well as nurseries for elephants and rhinos and small animals. The centre and its satellite units have handled more than 3000 cases since its inception in 2002.
Philip, Rani, and Nunai spend a part of their day in the mega-herbivore outdoor nursery. This is a 2500 sq feet open grassy area that they play in and explore every day. This is also where they receive their daily milk feeds, multigrain supplements, fruits, fodder etc. During the day, they are also then taken to other parts of the campus which have enough wild vegetation for them to nibble on and also a small play pond to splash around in.
All the calves are examined daily by the resident vets and occasionally, vets from the Guwahati College of Veterinary Sciences are called in to examine them, should the need arise as it did a few months ago when Philip had lost some weight. The vets determined that a parasitic infestation was the cause and he was dewormed ahead of schedule. Since then his stools have been examined regularly in the lab and have shown a negative parasitic load. He is now feeding well and is being given extra milk feeds to help him regain lost weight.
Another task that Philip’s caregivers have is to peer inside his mouth every day! His tusks are still in the process of erupting and the keeper has to make sure they are doing so normally. While earlier there was just an area of hardness in the gums, now one can see the glint of white below the tissues.
Ever the prankster, Philip retains his love for untying bootlaces but rarely has the opportunity these days as everyone wears gumboots because of the rains. Recently, another of our older resident elephant calves – Tora – tried to muscle her way in during Rani and Nunai’s milk feed when Philip, having already finished his feed, had wandered off. Tora started to push Rani and Nunai aside to get at the bottle and that was when Philip came charging back to push Tora away. This is the first time Philip has displayed protective instincts and is a good sign to see that the calves are watching out for each other just as they would as part of a wild herd.
Philip, Rani and Nunai have never been taken beyond the centre limits as they are too young to expose to the dangers of the jungle. That time will come in another year’s time when they are weaned and their daily walks with the keeper has them venturing into the surrounding Panbari Reserve Forest for their first taste of the wild.
During all the stages of rehab, human contact is kept as minimal as possible to discourage imprinting. It is only the privileged few caregivers who actually get close to the calves. The rare visitor to the centre watches the calves from a distance and always from behind a screen so as to be unseen. All of these precautions are necessary to ensure a successful rehabilitation back in the wild and we have to thank you giving us the privilege of being able to care for these endearing young ones while they grow.
Philip Dev, now a sturdy 15-month old is, as always, the most feisty of the group of young elephant calves at CWRC. You can always find him rushing to the keeper at feeding time, enthusiastically tossing of his head and trunk and sometimes even pushing Rani and Nunai out of the way in his hurry to be first in the line for the bottle. He is not very fond of baths in the playpond but will still good-naturedly tolerate the dunkings that Nunai subjects him to.
Another important happening is that Philip’s tusks have just started to erupt and he is to be a tusker! Unlike African elephants, only a very small proportion of male Asian elephants have tusks and this makes Philip even more special for us.
Philip has also grown taller by 2 cm from the last time he was measured and comparing him and his playmates, Rani and Philip are the same height while little Nunai is 1 cm shy of being a meter tall.Philip Dev’s measurementsChest girth: 150 cm; Shoulder height: 106 cm; Body length: 148 cm
Two months ago, Philip had developed a lump in his left foreleg. Initially thought to be an abscess or a tumor, the veterinarians from Guwahati Veterinary College later diagnosed this to be a harmless fibroid mass that would need surgical intervention only if it started to affect his gait.
The rains have not been a very comfortable time for the young calves at CWRC with waterborne infections taking its toll and Philip was also ill for a while along with the rest of the calves. He is much better now after medications with recent stool tests showing a negative parasitic load.
It was also noticed that Philip had been losing a little weight even though his milk and grass intake was normal, perhaps due to the eruption of tusks. As a precaution, he has been having special supervision by one of the animal keepers during the day who keeps watch over him and monitors his intake of grass and milk - much like a mother making sure of the child’s nutritional intake.
Now that the worst of the rains is over, Philip and his friends are starting to go back to their old routine with mostly spending time outdoors.
We are very grateful for the generosity of kind hearted people such as you that enables the field teams in Assam to carry on this crucial task of caring for orphaned elephant calves and giving them a chance to live a life of freedom and dignity in the wild.
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