Assam has recorded an increase in the total population of the world-famous one-horned rhinos over the past three years. The figures of the just-concluded 2012 census have revealed the presence of 2,505 rhinos as against 2,201 found during the 2009 count — an increase of 304.
The Kaziranga National Park (KNP) had 2,290 rhinos and the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park 100. The Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary recorded 93 rhinos while the Manas National Park housed 22 rhinos received through translocations from Kaziranga and Pabitora under the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme.
In 2009 Kaziranga accounted for 2,048 of the animals. The census figures show that rhino population in this world heritage site has increased by 242 over the past three years. The Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary has recorded an increase of nine rhinos from 84 in 2009. However, the actual increase would be 17 as eight had been translocated to Manas. The sanctuary has the highest density of rhinos in the world. The Orang National Park which accounted for 64 in 2009 recorded 100 rhinos this time, an increase of 36 rhinos.
“The growth is satisfactory. We will be able to achieve the IRV 2020 target of 3000 rhinos in Assam by the year 2020,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) S. Chand told The Hindu on Monday. The senior IFS official said the growth in population had been possible due to the “dedication and commitment” of the officers and the staff in the field as well as “strong support of the political leadership in the State.”
In 1999, the total rhino population was 1,672 which increased to 2006 rhinos in 2006 and to 2201 in 2009. The IRV-2020 programme, implemented by the Assam Forest Department with the support of the WWF and the International Rhino Foundation, is aimed at ensuring that the animals are distributed over at least seven protected areas of the State so that in the event of an epidemic afflicting the entire population in Kaziranga and Pabitora, the one-horned rhinos in other protected areas can be conserved.