After seven long days, a rhinoceros from central Assam’s Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary that had strayed from its flooded habitat in the sanctuary to the Rani Chapori sandbar on the Brahmaputra in lower Assam’s Kamrup district was rescued by the Environment and Forest Department on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday morning some residents of the Palasbari area of the district sighted it and informed the officials of the Forest Department.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Suresh Chand told The Hindu that the rescued rhino would be kept in Guwahati zoo for some time to help it heal its wounds and then it would be taken back to Pabitora.

Mr. Chand said the rhino was tranquillised at 4.30 p.m. after the logistics, which included three elephants, two excavators, one platform, a crate, two trucks, a tractor and a crane, were arranged. As the effects of tranquilisation remains for two hours, the rhino had to be dragged to the crate on a platform for about 50 metres. This was reportedly quite challenging as there was a lot of water around. Initially a tractor was used to drag the rhino, but it failed. Then an excavator was used which developed some snag and a second excavator had to be used.

Mr. Chand said that etorphine was used to tranquillise the rhino. Etorphine is manufactured only in South Africa and is procured by the Department after following a long-winding process. Once the rhino was put inside the crate, the veterinarian administered a dose of riverzine, a drug used to bring the tranquillised rhino back to normal state.

A different mission

Tranquillising this rhino was, however, different from normal cases as in normal cases the rhinos are tranquillised before being shifted, and during such translocations everything, including time, place can be decided according to convenience. But in Sunday’s rescue operation the Department did not have much flexibility, as the topography of the rescue site made it challenging for the entire rescue team.

Gogoi congratulates rescue team

Assam Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain oversaw the rescue operation. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, currently in New Delhi, congratulated the entire rescue team forest officials, veterinarians, NGO for the successful rescue mission, witnessed by a huge crowd of patient onlookers

The Indian Air Force had earlier come forward at the request of the Assam government to airlift the rhino when it was first sighted at Ranichapori sandbar near Sualkuchin and also carried out a recce as the department had initially planned to airlift the animal. However, as there was water all around on the sandbar the department had to postpone the operation and decided to wait for a few more days.