WLT’s partner, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), have recently released six elephant calves in Manas National Park – this is the first time that elephants have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild in India. The elephants had previously been cared for at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation in Assam, which WTI run with support from the Government Department for Environment and Forestry.
The Centre was the first of its kind in India and was developed because of the annual floods in nearby Kaziranga National Park, which results in the loss of a large number of animals. The Centre has handled more than 400 cases, with half of those being released. Most cases can be released within a few days, which increases the chances of them reintegrating into the wild. This is more difficult during the floods, which can last for 3-4 weeks.
The Centre has previously been successful in the release of young elephants within 48 hours of rescue, which were reintegrated back into their own herd. However, this has not been possible for all the elephants – either because the herd has not been found or because they have rejected the young elephant. These elephants remain at the Centre where they are looked after until they are old enough to be released and reintegrated into the wild.
Releasing elephants in Kaziranga National Park would be difficult because they are at carrying capacity within the Park and there is already human-elephant conflict in the area as there are a number of villages around the Park. Therefore, for this first release, WTI decided to transfer the elephants to Manas National Park, where there would be lower risk of conflict with people and the elephants could be integrated into a wild herd.
For more information, read the WTI news release: Hand-raised elephants will return to wild