Philip (left) with Rani - playtime at CWRC.
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.
The IFAW-WTI rescue team at CWRC
Philip(L), Rani & Nunai on way to the evening feed