Road chokes rhino habitat, threatens calves | india | Hindustan Times
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Road chokes rhino habitat, threatens calves

A road constructed under a central government scheme has choked a key rhino habitat, triggering a fodder crisis for the animal and endangering the lives of at least 10 newborns.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2010 22:13 IST
Rahul Karmakar

A road constructed under a central government scheme has choked a key rhino habitat, triggering a fodder crisis for the animal and endangering the lives of at least 10 newborns.

Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, 60 km east of Guwahati, has the world’s highest concentration of one-horned rhinos. According to the last estimate, this sanctuary in Morigaon district had 84 rhinos in a 16-sq- km area.

The 830-sq-km Kaziranga National Park, 200 km further east, has more than 2,000 rhinos.

Like Kaziranga, grasslands comprise much of Pobitora. Rhinos there thrive on the elephant grass. The grassy expanse is normally flooded during the monsoon, but the water needs to drain out for shoots to sprout.

The waters of the Kolong and Digaru rivers flowed into Pobitora this monsoon but unlike other years it did not flow out after the rains. The resultant water-logging has prevented a regeneration of grass.

Sanctuary officials said a road skirting Pobitora’s western edge has prevented the water from flowing out. The road was raised and widened under the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana.

“This road from Mayong village to Samatapathar is 18-km long but the problem lies along a 2-km stretch in between,” said Pobitora divisional forest officer SK Shil Sarma.

“I had a month ago written to the PWD engineer concerned to scoop out chunks of this problem stretch and construct a bridge for the water to pass.” But no action has been taken so far by the state’s public works department.

Green activists fear that the stagnant water could threaten the lives of at least 10 rhino calves that need to feed on the new grass.

“Because villagers in the vicinity graze their cattle here, the rhinos effectively have less than 10-sq-km of space in Pobitora.

The cattle outnumber the rhinos in areas not affected by water-logging,” said wildlife specialist Firoz Ahmed.