By Teresa Rehman,Womens Feature Service
The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), run by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in Borjuri village near Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, completes its mission to save India’s animals in distress by the relentless effort of one amazing female wildlife vet, Phulmoni Gogoi.
Gogoi’s love for animals is seen in her eyes as she sat one day in the incubation room dotingly nursing a wreathed hornbill.The bird had fallen from its nest due to heavy rain and broke its wings. But she was fighting a lost battle. Despite giving it the necessary care and medication, she could not save it. It succumbed to its injuries.
Any such casualty is agonising for Gogoi.It’s not just injured birds, as a vet surgeon she has to tend to all species of animals in distress – from a rare black panther or an endangered Hoolock Gibbon to a rhino calf or captive elephant.
The CWRC was set up in 2002.It is the first rescue and rehabilitation centre near a protected area in India.It caters to an array of wildlife emergencies occurring out of natural or anthropogenic causes. It has the essential veterinary infrastructure,examination clinic, a surgery theatre and investigation laboratory.It also has spacious holding shelters for birds, reptiles, ungulates and primates, enclosures for big cats and nurseries for mega-herbivores.They give the necessary treatment.They tended all the displaced, injured, sick animals and try to release them back to the wild
Gogoi owes her love for animals for she spent her childhood years in Roing, Arunachal Pradesh. As a little girl, she used to often go to the forest to see wild birds , monkeys and elephants.She used to relish the early morning sounds made by the gibbons as they jumped and played around the forest.
While making a career move, unlike most of her friends, she chose to study Veterinary Science.Her husband is also a vet who guided her towards this unconventional career option – that of a wildlife vet. Initially, Gogoi’s parents were appalled by her career choice for it is hard for them to allow her to stay in the forest alone.
There are times when she has to tend abandoned rhinos and elephant calves.Gogoi and her team bottle-feed the calf with skimmed milk and added vitamin, carbohydrate and calcium supplements. According to their rehabilitation protocol, while hand-raising a young calf below the age of three months, the keeper has to constantly keep it company even at night.Gogoi admitted she served as surrogate mother to this orphaned calf.
The happiest moment of her life is at the time of the release of an animal or a bird back to its home in the wild. But she finds birds the most sensitive of all creatures.
Gogoi has never felt that her being a woman is a deterrent to her unusual profession. But she also concedes that to live one’s life with animals in the wild may not be easy.It would also depend on individual interest and passion. She have met many women from countries like Spain, Germany, England, France, Portugal and the US who come to work at the CWRC. She ignores to see any reason why Indian girls can’t work in this field.It all depends on one’s own interest and love for the profession.
She encounters occupational hazards everyday like the risk of being attacked by animals, or being affected by zoonosis during rescue.Zoonosis is a deadly disease that can be transmitted from any vertebrate to animals to humans.Thus, it entails that she has to keep herself updated with specialised modern training methods. She had attended necropsy training in crocodiles at Chennai’s Crocodile Bank, workshops on rhino translocation and emerging zoonotic diseases.
Gogoi is expert in handling both small and large carnivores. In spite of working through sleepless nights, especially during the monsoons when the casualty rates are high, she takes pleasure in her work. She never switches off her mobile phone and is ready for any kind of emergency.
A committed vet, Gogoi stands ready at all times for the creatures of the wild in their hour of need.