Three Rhinos have been spotted in Pabho Reserve Forest in Assam’s Lakhimpur district after squatters were evicted last week, forest officials said on Thursday.
“This is wonderful encouraging news for all wildlife enthusiasts,” a forest official said, adding that it is not unusual to spot rhinos in Pabho, about 194 km from the northeast corner of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve’s Biswanath Wildlife Division.
According to the official, rhinos visit Pabho for a short duration of one or two months and the villagers living in adjoining the areas have witnessed rhinos mating there in the past.
The 2,560.25 hectares Pabho was declared as Milroy Buffalo Sanctuary decades ago but there was no official notification.
Environmentalist Bibhab Kumar Talukdar said that as the wild buffaloes and rhinos share the same habitat, hence the name was given accordingly.
The forest official said that the Pabho was not given importance from the wildlife and environment point of view decades ago when different communities began encroaching upon it, leaving only 29 hectares for the trees and wildlife.
The Forest Department accompanied by the Lakhimpur district administration and the police, evicted 500 families belonging to Bengali-speaking Muslims on January 10 and 11 from the forest areas, after which the reserve forest came into focus.
The All Assam Minority Students’ Union criticised the BJP government in the state claiming that the eviction drive was “aimed” at the Muslims while people belonging to other communities were not driven out.
A leader of Raijor Dal, a local party, Azizur Rahman said the eviction area is one-eighth of the total reserve forest area.
He questioned the government’s claim that rhinoceroses are moving in the forest areas immediately after the eviction of the 500 families even though the Pabho reserve forest was famous for wild buffaloes.
Assam’s Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve is India’s seventh UNESCO world heritage site famous for its one-horned rhinos and home to more than 2,613 one-horned Indian rhinos and other animals including tiger and elephants.