Special protection measures, better habitat and effective policing by guards and locals have helped boost the population of the endangered one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park.
In 2006, the Kaziranga National Park had 1,885 one-horned rhinos. The latest census in April this year by Assam Forest Department and World Wildlife Fund in April 2009 put the rhino numbers at 2,048.
Rhinos are high on poachers’ list, but the situation has improved since the Assam forest department deployed guards and locals on the highways to protect the animal, said Dipankar Ghose, director (species) for eastern Himalayan landscape at WWF.
“Only a handful of rhinos were poached in 2008 as compared to the annual average of 20,” said S.N. Buragohain, director of Kaziranga National Park. Most rhinos were poached near the Guwahati National Highway when the animals were moving to the hills to escape the flooding Brahma-putra River during monsoon.
The overall wildlife situation in Kaziranga has improved, with better prey population and a suitable environment for the breeding of rhinos. “The elephant population here, as per the environment ministry’s census of 2007, has increased from 1,000 in 2002 to 1,940 in 2005. Similarly, population of wild boar and other animals has also increased — an indication that the habitat is better equipped for wildlife to survive,” Buragohain said.
The increase in rhino population is the only bit of good news in a year when 31 tiger deaths and 40 leopard deaths have been reported by mid-April.