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The healthy, female rhinoceros calf born in Manas National Park in India marked a new milestone in the efforts to reintroduce rhinos to the region.
"This is the first calf born in the wild in India from a rhino that had been hand-raised, rehabilitated, and released to the wild," said Azzedine Downes, president and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
The Rhino Rehabilitation Project is a pioneering joint venture of the Assam Forest Department, IFAW-Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and Bodoland Territorial Council to hand-raise orphaned or displaced calves and then release them in the wild. To date, five hand-raised rhino calves, three females and two males, have been moved to Manas.
The new mother, named Ganga by her rehabilitators, was rescued as a three-month-old calf during the annual floods in the Kaziranga National Park in 2004. Three years later, Ganga and another female calf were moved to Manas National Park.
"Ganga was one of the first rhinos to reach Manas as part of the reintroduction. This birth marks yet another crucial milestone in our efforts to bring Manas back to its former glory," said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Regional Head, IFAW-WTI.
By the 1990s, Manas had lost all its rhinos and was declared a World Heritage Site in danger. The attempts at rhino reintroduction began at the start of this century.
"This is a very special moment for all of us. The situation of rhinos across the world has been depressing, with so many poached for their horns in the past year," said Vivek Menon, Executive Director, WTI, and Regional Director – South Asia, IFAW. "Instances like this birth are what keep us optimistic and spirited to do more."
Manas is located in the Eastern Himalaya foothills in the Indian state of Assam. The park was first created in 1928. Today, it is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home to many rare species.