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Assam aims to have 3,000 rhinos by next year, Manas National Park leads the way (India)

By December 3, 2019Conservation, Translocation
Ratnadip Choudhury, NDTV | December 2, 2019

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MANAS NATIONAL PARK, ASSAM: To enhance India’s biodiverity in the Northeast, the rhino translocation project aims to take the rhino population in Assam to 3,000 by next year.

Launched in 2005, the rhino translocation project aims to boost the population of rhinos in Assam and expand the range of the species to include seven protected parks in Assam. Rhinos have been trans-located from Kaziranga, Orang and Bobitora in Assam.

Assam’s Manas National Park in the Himalayan foothills was home to around 100 Rhinos till the 1990s. The UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1985 but a spate of poaching incidents during the decade of civil unrest between 1989 and 2001 wiped out every single rhino here.

“In 2003, when the Bodoland accord was signed, the effort of entire conservation fraternity was to restore the Manas biodiverity and we need an element of pride and focus and it was the rhinos,” said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, a veterinary surgeon of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) heading its Manas wildlife conservation project.

The rhinos that are trans-located from Kaziranga and elsewhere are kept in an enclosure before they are release into the wild.

“As an indicator of success, all the female rhinos have bred and their off-springs have also bred… the total population is 40 now,” Dr Choudhury added.

But reintroducing rhinos has not been without challenges. About 16 rhinos were trans-located since 2010 but four of them were killed by poachers in 2013 and another one went missing in 2016.

However, the situation is improving now. The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) that governs the area claimed that tourists have once again started flocking the area.

“The momentum is on what we need from the world is more travelers should come and see this place, build responsible tourism model around it and in a way to also help the livelihood of the locals,” Partha Pratim Das, the Tourism Advisor of BTC, said.

“There is an extraordinary natural landscape in Manas. The United Nations Environment Programme is trying to bring people together and increase cooperation on best practices between India, Bhutan and Nepal,” said Adam Hodge, Information Officer, Asia and Pacific, of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The UNEP has selected Manas National Park as one of its key areas where it plans to implement a proposed trans-nation conservation project to conserve and protect the biodiversity and wildlife of the Eastern Himalayas.