Rhino population in Assam’s Kaziranga increases by over 8%

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The population of one-horned rhinos or Indian rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve has increased by 8.28 per cent in four years, officials said on Tuesday, citing the latest census conducted on March 25-28.

Kaziranga Director Jatindra Sarma said that in the 14th rhino population estimation/census, conducted on March 25 to 28, it is estimated that a total of 2,613 rhinos living in the Unesco world heritage site against 2,413 rhinos enumerated in the previous census in 2018.

Talking to IANS over phone, the senior Indian Forest Service officer said that of the total of 2,613 rhinos, 1,823 are adult (above six years), out of which 903 are female, 750 are male, and 170 are unspecified.

In the latest census, there are 365 sub-adults (3 to 6 years), 279 juvenile (one to three years) and 146 rhino calves (up to one year old) found in the national park.

Sarma said that before the actual rhino census, a training cum briefing was imparted to the enumerators by experts on March 25 and a sample survey was conducted on March 28 in 26 numbers of compartments randomly selected.

All together 64 enumerators, 12 independent observers, and 49 media observers participated in the entire exercise, while 50 elephants were deployed to cover all 84 compartments, the Director said. Further, 252 frontline staff were directly involved in the four-day exercise.

Sarma said that the Global Positioning System devices and binoculars were provided to the enumerators for better observation, while, for the first time, drone technology was also used for sample recheck, he said.

The Kaziranga Director also said that poaching of rhinos and elephants for their horns or tusks has been drastically reduced following a series of steps including deployment of additional forest guards and other security forces, taken by the Assam Forest Department.

He also said that during the last four years, Kaziranga lost 400 rhinos due to natural causes.

A rhino census was also carried in Assam’s two other rhino habitats earlier this month.

According to wildlife officials, the Orang National Park, on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, recorded an increase of 24 rhinos over the figure of 101 in 2018, while the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary recorded five more rhinos than in 2018. Of the 107 rhinos counted in the sanctuary, 50 were females, 30 males, and 27 were calves.

Assam witnessed one solitary case of rhino poaching last year – the lowest the state has registered in 21 years. Two rhinos were killed in 2020, three in 2019, seven in 2018 and six in 2017, while in between 2013 and 2016, at least 89 rhinos were killed by the poachers with 27 rhinos were killed each in 2013 and 2014. The Assam government last year formed the Anti-Poaching Task Force (APTF) to curb rhino poaching in Kaziranga.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

20220329-182801

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