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Despite anti-poaching row, Kaziranga shines in IUCN report on natural world heritage sites

A BBC documentary released this year suggested that anti-poaching measures put in place to protect rhino species in the park were causing hardships to local villagers.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2017 12:15 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kaziranga,Rhinos,IUCN Assessment
Kaziranga is home to more than 91% of Assam’s rhinos, and over 80% of India’s total count. A 2015 population census showed 2,401 rhinos inhabiting the park.(AFP File)

The IUCN assessment of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, which attained notoriety earlier this year for allegedly adopting overly aggressive anti-poaching measures, has improved from “serious concerns” to “good with some concerns”.

A BBC documentary released this year suggested that anti-poaching measures put in place to protect rhino species in the park were causing hardships to local villagers. The news agency alleged that its park rangers killed an average of two poaching suspects every month, and over 20 a year.

The IUCN report, however, branded the park as one of the “better-managed protected areas” in the country. “The park has a long history of protection, which reflected in the dramatic recovery of the rhino population and celebration of 100 years of conservation in 2005,” the assessment said, adding that it enjoys the “highest legal protection”.

The IUCN Assessment-2017 is the second instance of the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifying UNESCO-recognised natural world heritage sites on the basis of protection status. This update was timed to coincide with the Bonn Climate Change Conference, which will dwell on how natural world heritage sites threatened by climate change rose from 35 to 62 between 2013 and 2017.

The Sunderbans also improved its ranking from being a site with “serious concerns” to “good with some concerns” this year. The ecologically sensitive region, which accommodates the largest stretch of mangrove forests in the world, covers about 10,000 sq km of water and land in the Ganga delta.

The Sunderbans, the abode of the Royal Bengal Tiger, faces significant risk from the various effects of climate change, such as rising sea level, coastal erosion and changing hydrological patterns. These continue to be areas of concern, the assessment found.

Factors such as the success of conservation programmes for threatened species; better checks on illegal activities; involvement of communities in forest management; and curbing instances of human-wildlife conflict prompted the IUCN to look at Kaziranga and Sunderbans favourably in its latest report.

The Manas wildlife sanctuary, Western Ghats, Kaziranga and Sunderbans were listed as sites of serious concern in the 2013 assessment. The status of the Manas wildlife sanctuary and Western Ghats did not improve this time round.

Eight of the 241 natural world heritage sites examined in the report were from India. Others on the list were the Great Himalayan National Park, Keoladeo, Nanda Devi and the Valley of Flowers.

First Published: Nov 15, 2017 12:15 IST