Chitwan National Park, Nepal which holds the second largest population of greater one horned rhinos has the bragging rights for celebrating 2 consecutive years of zero poaching. It is indeed an achievement, in the world where despite all efforts Rhinos are poached relentlessly under the benign traditional beliefs or antique demands by the rich. The park which is a 932 sq.km of protected area surrounded by community forests acts as a well watched home for the Rhinoceros Unicornis. Here Rhinos breed in open and their condition watched over by 2500 Nepal Army personnel who stay inside the forest protecting, patrolling and participating in daily functions of the Forest Department.
Chitwan has a good population of breeding Rhinos as well and many a time naturalists from the lodge observe diverse behavior of mother in raising the young ones. Born after 18 months of gestation period, a baby rhino is able to walk with the mother right after birth. Following mother Rhinos is always dangerous as they are intolerable to any unusual presence around the duo. We have seen young babies walking in the close shadow of mothers when they are too young and soon it will leave the security of his mother’s side and establish his/her own territory.
Recently, a mother Rhino who we have been observing from a long time gave birth to a small 60lbs baby, during various drives we could see the mother and baby grazing. At times, mother had mock charged the jeep during safaris and then went deeper into the cover of elephant grass, camouflaging the baby besides its own skin. Two days ago, however the mother was seen alone and rushed to attack during the jungle walk. The naturalists who are trained to lead walks in jungle knew it is best to leave her territory and change the direction. However, they also mentioned that the mother was desperately in search of its two month old baby which was walking besides her until yesterday and suddenly went missing.
The army was informed and after a thorough search of rhino’s territory with the help of lodge elephants, the baby was discovered stuck in a crater formed by uprooted tree after last night’s storm. Since rhinos do not have a great vision the baby tumbled into the hole, head first, probably while grazing and could not scream. The mother who had also found the baby by then still did not permit the proximity of humans around the baby and elephants had to be used to keep her from attacking. It took around thirty minutes to broaden the hole and rescue the baby. The baby had given up the struggle for survival by then and it felt we all had lost the battle. He was buried by the army with its mother watching from a distance. From the day, there is always a grief expressed in deep sighs for not been able to save the baby we all had seen toddling in our forest till yesterday!
We can save the park from poachers but all our forces put together still fall short in front of the nature. The supreme giver and taker, the fact that nature took its course despite all our efforts makes us all feel dwarfed and makes us think how important it is for all of us to save this incredible species browsing in the jungles of Chitwan National Park. Not for the world, but for the mothers and babies of these otherwise solitary animals whose lives are incomplete without each other.
Courtesy : Vineeta Yadav