Looking back; during a chilly morning on the 21st of December 2019 a baby rhino was found near Tamaspur area, Nawalparasi, by the staffs of Chitwan National Park. They concluded the calf was a young female that had separated from its mother. Immediately after being alerted about the situation, a rescue team from the National Trust for Nature Conservation – Biodiversity Conservation Center (NTNC-BCC) was mobilized.
The Greater one-horned rhinoceros is one of the iconic species of Chitwan National Park. With 694 rhinos counted during the National Rhino Count 2021, CNP holds the second largest population of rhinos in the wild after Kaziranga National Park in India.
The rescued calf was found dehydrated, indicating that a considerable time would have passed since the calf separated from her mother. The team suggested it was only about a month old. After administering some intravenous fluids, it was brought to Sauraha to the NTNC-BCC premises for nursing and rehabilitation. She was given the name ‘Pushpa’, which means a flower.
A little over a year after this incident, on the 5th of April in 2021, another female rhino calf was found wandering alone around Kujauli post, Nawalparasi, in a similar condition. The experienced team of NTNC-BCC swiftly brought the calf under its care. It was found to be a female aged around 2-3 months. Everyone at Sauraha was happy that Pushpa would finally have a friend. She was named Anjali.
Out of the 21 rhino calves rescued at various times in the past, in total eight orphaned rhino calves have been reared and brought up at the NTNC-BCC premises. At present, Puja, a six-month old rhino, continues to be looked after here. Raising these young animals is no small task. The responsibility of taking care of Pushpa and Anjali was entrusted to our young wildlife technician, Mr. Lal Bahadur Mahatara, the rhino duo's favorite companion.
As if the rescued calves were siblings with memories of each other’s separation, Pushpa and Anjali instantly became best friends. Under the care of the NTNC-BCC team, the two calves got bigger. Now Pushpa is more than three years while Anjali is little over two years old. All this time, they were kept in an enclosure only during nights so that they could be safe from older rhinos and tigers. During daytime, they freely roamed the forests adjacent to CNP and the NTNC-BCC premises.
At times when Lal was busy with his daily chores, these two playful little calves would sneak out to the market area near to NTNC-BCC. Most of the times they would be found roaming around city areas flaunting their beauties as if asking people to look at them and appreciate their majestic presence. Other times they would be found either grazing in someone else’s lawn or resting in ATM vestibules hiding from the scorching heat of Chitwan.
'Pushpa-Anjali', literally meaning hands full of flowers offered to the deities, are symbolic of nature’s divine offering to the people of Chitwan. Especially in Sauraha these beautiful creatures have touched the lives of many.
Despite their bonding, a moment of truth had arrived. As part of our rehabilitation programme Pushpa and Anjali were released into the wild on the 14th of May. The combined team from CNP and NTNC-BCC released them inside the Lami Tal area of CNP, where they will be periodically monitored.
In the wild Pushpa and Anjali will have to ford with the ways of the jungle and learn to survive on their own. As they depart, a moment of sadness confronts the people who have known them since little. However a greater sense of joy prevails in reminding each other that the rhinos return back to their original home, back to the great wilderness of Chitwan National Park.