Twenty-one rare one-horned rhinoceros died after monsoon rains flooded India’s Kaziranga National Park this week. The rhinos that perished were among 270 animals killed in the floodwaters, which covered 80 percent of the Unesco World Heritage Site in the far eastern region of India. Eight rhino calves belonging to the rare species were rescued, although some are reportedly in critical condition. It may be some time before the full effects of the disaster are known.
The drowning deaths mark a devastating loss for the one-horned species known as Rhinoceros unicornis, as some 70 percent of the global population of these rare rhinos live in the national park. Of those killed, ten were calves between two and six months old. Wildlife workers and volunteers rescued eight other calves from the floodwaters using ropes, and most of the survivors are being cared for at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation.
According to World Wildlife Fund estimates from earlier this year, just 3,500 of these rare one-horned rhinos remained. Kaziranga wildlife official Rathin Barman reports that the rescued calves are being treated for dehydration and distress, and will be released after two years. Meanwhile, park officials are assessing the losses and surveying other flood-related damage in the park. “Some 270 wild animals have died, this has been one of the worst seasons of flooding,” Kaziranga National Park director Satyendra Singh told Sky News. “The devastation to the park’s infrastructure, roads, and bridges has been very severe.”
Singh said Friday that 30 percent of the 166-square-mile park remains flooded.