Rhinos to find safe haven at Manas

RHINO TRANSLOCATION

Assam is all set to save Asia’s one-horned rhinos from the annual Brahmaputra flood. The rhinos will be translocated from Kaziranga to Manas tiger reserve, writes Subhash Chandra N S

ESCAPING THE FLOOD Rhino translocation in progress. PHOTO: AMEEN AHMEDEven as Karnataka debates the translocation of elephants, Assam, which began India’s first rhinoceros translocation is now all set to save Asia’s one-horned rhinos from the annual floods of the Brahmaputra at Kaziranga by relocating them at Manas tiger reserve.

River Brahmaputra will no more be a river of sorrow for the Indian one-horned rhinoceros as the Assam forest department along with WWF and US Fish and Wildlife Services is planning its second round of translocation this summer and the rhinos to be translocated will be from Kaziranga National Park this time. The department’s decision is among others aimed at rescuing the rhinos, classified as vulnerable species according to International Union of Conservation Network (IUCN), from the flash floods of River Brahmaputra which takes a toll on at least half a dozen of these animals every year. “The other intention is aimed at reviving the rhino population and ensuring conservation and protection of Manas tiger reserve,” said a wildlife expert, who is a part of this programme.

The second phase of translocation began in 2011 with animals from Pobitora wildlife sanctuary (PWS) being shifted to Manas tiger reserve under the programme ‘Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020’, which aims to have a population of about 3,000 wild rhinos in the state of Assam by 2020.

The efforts to revive the population of one-horned rhinoceros in Manas tiger reserve bordering Bhutan began in early 2011 and witnessed successful translocation of six individuals IN 2011. The Pobitora sanctuary, a couple of hours’ drive from Assam’s capital Guwahati has the highest density of one-horned rhinos.

The Manas (National Park) wildlife sanctuary area, which had received Unesco World Heritage site tag for its scenic beauty and diverse wildlife had lost all its wild rhinos owing to Bodo militancy in the 1990s. The Park itself was in danger of losing its world heritage tag. Because of the all-round improvement in its security, the park is slowly getting back to its golden days. A recent tiger estimation by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) through camera trap has found tiger numbers swelling here, as at least ten of them were camera trapped.

Manas National Park

Declared a sanctuary on October 1, 1928, with an area of 360 sq km, the park became a tiger reserve in 1973. Deriving its name from the river Manas, a tributary of Brahmaputra which passes through the forest, the park is known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife such as the Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, pygmy hog and wild water buffalo.

The place is also known for its primate diversity as the capped langurs, golden langurs, Assamese macaques, slow loris and Hoolock gibbons have been recorded here.

The sanctuary has 55 species of mammals, 380 species of birds, 50 of reptiles, and three species of amphibians. Out of these wildlife, 21 mammals are India’s Schedule I mammals and 31 of them are threatened. The park, which is known for its floral diversity and scenic beauty, had suffered due to Bodo militancy in the Nineties. However with the decline of militancy, the sanctuary has started showing signs of revival.

Staff feted

To motivate the staff towards the protection of the rhinos, WWF-India and Assam State Forest Department have jointly launched ‘WWF-Assam Forest Department Vanya Prani Mitra Awards,’ which was given to four forest staff of the Assam State Forest Department for their exemplary service.The awards were presented by the Minister of Forests and Environment, Government of Assam, Rockybul Hussain in the second week of January.

One award was given to a patrolling team from the Kaziranga National Park, Assam. The patrolling team comprised Forest Guards Ganga Bora and Rustam Timung, Forest Guard and (Home Guard) forester Bhupen Hazarika. The other award was given to Salim Ahmed, Range Officer at the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park. The two awards carried a citation and a cash prize of Rs 25,000 each.

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