GUWAHATI, April 9 – The rhino census-2012 recorded the presence of 2,505 pachyderms spread across four protected areas – Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Manas National Park – of the State.
The rhino population marks an increase of 304 over the 2009 census that had pegged the number at 2,201.
Kaziranga (429.93 sq km) continues to shelter the maximum number of rhinos with a count of 2,290, followed by Orang with 100, Pobitora with 93, and Manas with 22.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Suresh Chand told The Assam Tribune that the increase in the rhino population was on expected lines, and it testified to the enhanced conservation measures in the rhino habitats.
“It is a positive development for which the frontline staff and officials of the Forest Department deserve credit. It also reflects the political will for conservation,” Chand said.
Kaziranga, a World Heritage Site, which has been home to the world’s biggest one-horned rhino population for decades, added 242 more to the count, while Orang also had a significant increase of 46 in its 78.81 sq km area since the 2009 count of 64.
The tiny 38.19-sq km Pobitora – already overpopulated with rhinos – saw an addition of nine pachyderms. However, several rhinos from the sanctuary were translocated to Manas during the period.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the development relates to the addition of 22 rhinos to Manas through translocation where the entire 100-odd rhino population was wiped out during a period of social unrest in the 1990s.
Manas – also a World Heritage Site – has so far received 16 rhinos from Pobitora and Kaziranga under the ambitious Indian Rhino Vision-2020 which aims at having 3,000 rhinos spread across seven protected areas of the State by 2020.
Another six rhinos were translocated to Manas from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, Kaziranga, in the past few years.
“The translocated rhinos are doing fine, as they seem to have adapted well to the Manas grassland. We are confident of adding a substantial number in the next few years,” a park official said.
Under the Indian Rhino Vision – a joint endeavour of the International Rhino Foundation, WWF-India and the Forest Department –rhinos are to be translocated to Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park as well but that has not materialized till date due to poor security arrangements in the two protected areas.
Our Correspondent from Kohora adds: Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said that to meet the target figure of 3000 numbers of rhino by 2020 under Indian Rhino Vision (IRV), Programme 2020, there has to be an increase in the number of rhino by 4 per cent but interestingly it is found that there is already an increase of 15 per cent of rhino population in State which is very healthy in terms of conservation of the species. This year census report suggests that there are about 508 pairs mother and calf in Kaziranga National Park which reflects about good breeding of rhinos in Kaziranga due to the ideal habitat.