Guwahati, Sunday, September 15, 2019
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Growing animal ‘rescues’ mounting pressure on forest staff

 GUWAHATI, Sept 14 - In 2017, the number of rescued animals that were brought to the State zoo from Guwahati and its adjoining areas was 165, which included 46 mammals, 58 birds and 61 reptiles. The number rose to 298 in 2018. Till July this year, the number stood at 156.

As the number of animals “rescued” in the State continues to grow, a section of forest staff has come under tremendous pressure. For the record, the forest department has no permanent post of veterinarian. Three veterinarians are posted on deputation at the State zoo, Kaziranga and Manas national parks. Four veterinarians were taken on a six-month renewable contract sometime back.

Also, the department does not have any full-fledged rescue centre of its own. Apart from the State zoo, there is a facility run jointly by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the forest department in Kaziranga and handful of others run by NGOs at Dhola, Kokrajhar, Diphu, etc.

Forest officials dealing with such cases admit that in majority of the cases the release protocols are not followed.

“Normally in case of reptiles, a rescued animal should be released in an area within 1 km from the site where it was found – that is its habitat. In case of leopards, a habitat assessment should be done before releasing the animal,” sources said.

“But rescued animals that are brought to the zoo are released either at Garbhanga or at Amchang forests. This eventually will lead to a competition and pressure in the habitats there because there are already animals in those territories,” sources added.

In the recent past, there had been a number of proposals – one to set up a leopard rescue centre at Rani, another to set up an elephant rescue centre at the State zoo, besides six rescue centres at various places of the State equipped with mobile rescue units. However, none have hit the ground yet.

What has added pressure on the forest staff is that, experts say, in many of the cases the animals, which are taken to the forest staff by people or activists, are not cases of actual rescue.

“When people find a leopard cub in a tea garden, they bring it to the forest office. But it might be that the mother had gone for a hunt and look after the cub once she is done. When birds fledge out, they struggle at times and when people find such birds, they tend to bring it to the forest office,” a forest official said.

“Guwahati has a uniqueness of having different varieties of civets. Civet cubs are often brought to the zoo by people. Such animals should be left at the place for at least a night. These cases are actually not rescue,” the official added.

One of the peculiar cases is that among the rescue cases of snakes 40 per cent of them are pythons. Most of the pythons are picked up by the people from their natural habitat in the name of rescue when there is absolutely no need to rescue them.

“We are creating awareness among the people so that they don’t ‘rescue’ pythons if they are in natural habitats or fields or in any open area. Pythons have a lot of beneficial impacts on people and by rescuing it when it is not required we are only displacing them to different places which is not good for the animal as well as the habitat,” the official said.

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