Months after Sudan’s death “sparked” love for rhinos in Rohit’s heart, the Indian cricket team's vice-captain has allowed his bat and a jersey to be auctioned in London recently, for protection of the famed Indian one-horned rhinos from poachers, which is alarming in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.
“Rohit is going to be actively participating in helping us build awareness as well as garner funds for conservation of rhinos through digital platforms. An autographed bat and a jersey were auctioned in an event in London earlier this month and the amount will be used for rhino conservation. He is also planning to visit Kaziranga in early next year,” an official of WWF India told DH on Monday. The official, however, refused to disclose the amount generated from the London auction.
Rohit became the WWF-India brand ambassador last month and pledged to support its rhino conservation initiatives. Rohit will join several other celebrities across the globe supporting WWF’s conservation activities across countries. The WWF India and Rohit have also launched a fundraising drive online with a target to collect Rs. 1.80 crore initially. At least 55 persons have already donated for the cause.
Assam alone is home to 80% of the world’s one-horned rhinos, while a small population is found in Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too. Most of the rhinos in Assam are found in the 434-sq kilometre Kaziranga National Park, also a Unesco World Heritage site and in Orang National Park, Manas National Park and Pobitora Wildlife sanctuary.
But at least 15 rhinos are killed by poachers almost every year alone in Kaziranga, which has 2,413 one-horned rhinos at present. An international gang of armed poachers shoots down the giant animal, each weighing between 1,600 to 3,000-kgs, gouge its horn for smuggling to countries like China and Vietnam. The rhino horn is reportedly used in the preparation of traditional medicines in those countries as they believe it to contain aphrodisiac ingredients but scientists have described such belief as superstition only.
Many also die in floods Assam faces almost every year. The campaign assumes significance as the Indian rhino has been labelled as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Switzerland.
“Once found all along the Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra valley, the Indian rhino is now only found in select pockets in India and Nepal, with only about 3,500 of them left in the two countries. This is a result of excessive poaching for their horn and the expansion of human settlements and change in land use patterns, leading to a loss of rhino habitats. Under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020, Assam forest department and other partners including WWF-India is working to ensure that a breeding population of the greater one-horned rhino in India is spread across 10 protected areas by 2030,” WWF India said.