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Orphan rhino struggles to survive after poachers kill mother

Rhino and calf

An Indian rhino calf that lost its mother to poachers earlier this week is clinging to life with the help of conservationists, according to WWF staff assisting with its care. The 2-week-old calf is in critical condition after poachers gunned down its mother and chopped off her horn on April 2.

WWF celebrated the arrival of two calves—one from the poached rhino and one from another translocated rhino—just last week. The disturbing incident marks the latest in a surge of poaching plaguing India’s Assam state, where 16 greater one-horned rhinos have been killed already this year.

baby rhino

A team of frontline staff from WWF, the government, partner organizations and community members located the dehydrated and traumatized calf and brought the newborn to a safe location for urgent veterinary care.

“It was a challenge getting hold of the calf as it was very scared, but thankfully it is fine and doing well now,” WWF’s Deba Dutta, a member of the rescue team, said.

Still, no one can assure the survival of the calf; newborns are highly dependent on their mothers for the first few years of life. Involved parties will set up a special fenced enclosure, or boma, for the calf so that rehabilitation experts can raise it. Though challenging, successfully reintroducing rhinos into the wild is possible.

Poachers and criminal traffickers are decimating the rhino population across their Asian and African ranges at record rates. Killing has surged in recent years as the rhino horn has become a prized commodity in Vietnam, where it is marketed as a miracle cure for everything from cancer to hangovers. Vietnam has done little to crackdown on the illegal trade or curb demand by dispelling the rumors, which lack medical basis.

Criminals are now targeting rhinos reintroduced into Manas National Park by WWF and its Indian Rhino Vision 2020 partners. Four of the 18 translocated rhinos have been killed for their horns.

“In Manas National Park itself, monitoring, patrolling, intelligence and protection regimes need to be strengthened and implemented on the ground in a time-bound, verifiable and accountable manner,” Dr. Dipankar Ghose, director of WWF-India’s Species and Landscapes Program, said.

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