Country’s first wildlife hospital to bring respite to diseased, injured animalsThe hospital will serve sick and injured animals from Chitwan National Park and surrounding areas but treating large animals such as tigers and elephants still remains a challenge.
Kamal Gaire spent years taking care of injured and diseased wildlife from Chitwan National Park and surrounding forests.
Gaire, who worked as a veterinarian for more than two decades, has treated all kinds of wild animals big to small. However, treating wild animals is not as easy as treating humans.
“We need to go deep into the jungle and treat animals wherever they are found ill,” Gaire, a former senior veterinarian at Chitwan National Park, told the Post. “As we didn’t have a specific location or a dedicated space to treat these animals, we would treat animals in the field under shade.”
Park officials would keep injured wild animals in their quarters until they would recover for lack of a better space. Gaire recalls keeping a civet in a carton box after a tourist guide found the animal, which had fallen ill.
“It was malnourished. I kept the animal with myself and fed it papaya. Nearly two weeks later, it got better and left,” said Gaire, who retired from service in 2018. “Cubs of leopards would be seen playing around, recovering and growing in other staff members' rooms as well.”
The difficulty of treating wild animals in Chitwan is now expected to ease with the country’s first wildlife hospital coming into operation in Sauraha.
The hospital was inaugurated on Friday nearly seven years after construction began. A total of Rs 30.9 million, most of which came from the government, National Trust For Nature Conservation, Denver Zoo and WWF Nepal.
The new wildlife hospital is equipped with required medical equipment and is being run by technicians who can treat diseased, sick, weak and injured wild animals.
The opening of a dedicated hospital for wild species has elated conservationists such as Gaire. “Having a dedicated hospital is undoubtedly good news. If we had hospitals back then, many diseases could be detected in time and treated accordingly, and wild animals could have been kept in appropriate places too.”
The new hospital will be jointly operated by Chitwan National Park and Biodiversity Conservation Centre, Sauraha, under the National Trust for Nature Conservation.
The two-storey hospital building has eight rooms for OPD, lab, operation theatre, administration, dispensary, staff room and a meeting room.
Every year, veterinarians and wildlife technicians from the Chitwan National Park and Biodiversity Conservation Centre provide medical treatment to several dozen wild species from the park and adjoining forests. Wild animals hit by traffic along the East-West highway or those rescued from elsewhere are also brought to Chitwan.
“The currently available technicians and veterinarians will treat wild animals with the available resources and their understanding,” said Baburam Lamichhane, head of the centre. “But there were no facilities for blood testing, x-ray for immediate detection of disease and ultrasound for checking whether an animal is pregnant.”
Now the newly-opened hospital has a portable x-ray machine, ultrasound machine, automated haematology analyser for blood testing, automated biochemistry analyser machine, microscope and other required equipment. Likewise, the hospital also has an operation theatre with gaseous anaesthesia and a multiparameter patient system.
“Previously, the treatment of wildlife would be based on external examination. They would be kept on observation and treated for their symptoms,” said Lamichhane. “Now diagnosis can be done with blood tests and x-ray.”
According to Lamichhane, the hospital will also facilitate rescued animals brought to Chitwan from elsewhere.
“Last year, more than a dozen leopards were rescued from different parts of the country and brought to Chitwan. The leopard which the public took around the city in Baglung was also brought to Chitwan. It took two months for the leopard to fully recover,” said Lamichhane.
Authorities have also prepared Wildlife Hospital Management Operations Procedures, which details how the hospital will operate, and its financial and human resource requirements for its day-to-day operations.
“The hospital would need support from the government and conservation partners,” said Lamichhane. “We are also considering making the respective divisional forest office or local government, where a wildlife is rescued from, to foot the treatment bills.”
Both Gaire and Lamichhane agree that treatment of big animals like elephants and rhinos would be still challenging at this facility.
“It is difficult to bring big animals like tigers, elephants and rhinos to the hospital as there are rivers to be crossed,” said Gaire, who was honoured with the National Conservation Award in 2018. “But, the hospital will be useful in treating other animals.”
According to Lamichhane, the park and the centre treat on average two tigers, a few leopards and dozens of rhinos every year.
“It will be difficult to treat large animals at this hospital as of now,” said Lamichhane. “But we now have a portable x-ray machine which can be carried to the field, and diagnosis can be done easily.”