Students in India who depend on the government's mid-day meal program voluntarily gave up their lunch on Monday to help pay for milk for baby rhinos left orphaned by massive flooding in Assam.
Eight rhino calves rescued by the Centre for Wildlife Rescue and Conservation are fighting for their lives after losing their mothers in the floods that reportedly killed 28 people along with 300 wild animals in Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
Among those animals were 21 great one-horned rhinos.
The children at Nepali Khuti Banuwa LP School, touched by the story of the baby rhinos trying to survive without their mothers’ milk, sought permission to give up the meal to help obtain milk powder to help feed them, headmaster Bubul Dutta told The Telegraph India.
The money saved from the lunches was only enough to purchase one packet of powdered milk, which makes six liters of milk. But one rhino calf needs 20 liters per day.
"When others heard about the donation, they also contributed and we could give eight packets," Dutta said.
Rathin Barman, head of the rescue center, was touched by the gesture, especially since the children were so young.
"Never have I come across an instance where I was told by the teacher that children below [age] 12 had on their own given up a meal for the sake of wildlife," Barman told The Telegraph.
The India Times wrote that the children know the feeling of being near starvation and their sacrifice of a meal was a "powerful symbol."
Teachers, managing committee members, businessmen and others added to the children's donation.
"Kudos to [the children] and their teachers for this generous gesture that renews our faith in the future generation and shows us what true compassion is," the Wildlife Trust of India wrote on Facebook. "We have seen support from various quarters pouring in for supplementing our work at CWRC, but nothing touches us more than this greatest-ever donation from school children who sacrificed a mid-day meal to donate for the rescued rhino babies.
“The rhinos are well fed and we need you to look after yourselves and grow up as devoted conservationists who will fight to conserve nature and our national heritage!”
The Wildlife Trust of India reported Wednesday that three of the babies stepped out into the open-air paddock for the first time since their rescue.
"Five other calves are still in the indoor nursery but will be out soon after their injuries heal," TWT reported.
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