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.
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