Plans to airlift rhino dropped

Plans for the country’s first airlift of a rhinoceros washed away in flood after it strayed from a sanctuary were dropped at the last moment on Sunday and the animal was put on a special truck to ferry it to a zoo.

Trained elephants were used to guide the stranded full grown one-horned rhino to a safe area before wildlife personnel tranquilised the two-tonne animal and put on the truck with stocks of fodder to transport it to Guwahati state zoo by road.

District Deputy Commissioner S K Roy said plans were dropped this evening to airlift the rhino that strayed from Pabitora sanctuary on September 29.

The Indian Air Force(IAF) had already carried out mock drills for airlifting the animal by a chopper.

Officials said it was later thought it would be safer to bring the animal by road as the spot from where it was being transported is only around 45 km from Guwahati.

Inclement weather had prevented the translocation for the past few days and the animal, which was stranded in the sandbars of Brahamputra river at Sualkuchi in Kamrup (Rural) district on September 29. The animal had strayed from its natural habitat at Pabitora wildlife sanctuary.

It was spotted on Sunday 20 km away in Uporhali Baghmari beel (water body) at Palasbari by locals who reported it to the authorities, district deputy commissioner S K Roy said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Suresh Chand said the animal was under stress as it had been washed away from its habitat by strong currents of the Brahmaputra river.

“But now it has had food and its health is satisfactory,”  he said. Chand said it would be for the first time in the history of wildlife conservation in the country that a rhino would be airlifted if this had gone ahead.

An IAF chopper was also requisitioned from Bagdogra while specially trained IAF and and forest personnel were engaged in the airlifting drill using a special crane and mesh, he said.

The endangered one-horned Great Indian Rhino was washed away by flood waters after it strayed out to reached Rani Chapori beel.

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