Investigating parasite burdens and immunocompetence of orphaned greater one-horned rhino calves in Assam, India


AWF Research Fund



Research Period


Area of study

Student Research


Investigator(s): Luke O'Connor

Supervisor(s): Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Dr Panjit Basumatary (both Wildlife Trust of India)

Every year, rhino calves orphaned by floods in Kaziranga National Park are rescued by staff from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation & Conservation Centre (CWRC). The rhinos are kept there until they are released into a neighbouring national park two to three years later.
This study sought to establish the prevalence of parasite infections amongst these rhinos, and to use it as an indicator of the orphaned rhinoceroses’ overall health and welfare. Three groups were studied: rhino calves at CWRC, juveniles at CWRC and wild rhinos in Kaziranga.
54 faecal samples were analysed for parasite infection, and the results suggest that parasitic infections in these settings is relatively common. However, whilst rates of infection were high amongst orphans, particularly the juvenile ones, the severity of the infections was relatively low. So overall the orphaned animals were in good health. Recommendations to reduce parasitic rates include targeted selective treatment of highly affected rhinos only (to reduce resistance to treatment in the long run), and to release juveniles earlier in order to reduce the population density and so reduce the number of parasites which thrive in this environment.

Read the final paper published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine: A Survey of Gastrointestinal Parasites of Wild and Orphan Greater One-Horned Rhino (Rhinoceros Unicornis) in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

Watch Luke O'Connor present this research at the 2018 Discussion Forum


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