The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has sought a “factual report” on the rhino population enumeration, conducted in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in March 2022.
The information was requested for on the basis of a representation the Ministry received on January 27 from environmental activist Rohit Choudhury, alleging anomalies in the estimation of the rhinos in the national park.
The activist lives near the 889.51 sq. km national park that houses the bulk of the greater Indian one-horned rhinoceroses on earth. He cited documents received via the Right to Information to conclude that the number of rhinos in Kaziranga could have been inflated.
“…The undersigned is directed to request that a factual report on the matter may kindly be forwarded to the Ministry urgently,” the letter from Rakesh Kumar Jagenia, the Deputy Inspector-General of Forests (Wildlife) to Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden on February 17, read.
A copy of the representation from Mr. Choudhury was attached along with the letter.
According to the activist, data sheets from the enumeration across the 84 compartments of the national park showed that the actual count of rhinos was 2,042. But this figure was “adjusted” after a sample survey in some randomly selected compartments to show 2,613 rhinos — an increase of 200 from the 2,413 rhinos estimated in 2018.
The Assam Forest Department and the Kaziranga authorities denied doctoring data and said the estimation was consistent with the rhino’s average annual growth of 2.7% in the national park.
The State’s wildlife officials said the allegations were a misrepresentation of facts, and intended to tarnish the image of Kaziranga.