Kaziranga rhinos to get new home in Bihar (India)

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Northeast Now | March 13, 2020

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GUWAHATI: Bihar environment department is mulling to send a proposal to the NTCA for the translocation of rhinos from Kaziranga National Park (KNP) to VTR in West Champaran district.

Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) once had a sizeable number of rhinos, however, over the years the numbers decreased and today there is only a single rhino left in the reserve.

Original photo as published by NE Now News: Representational image.

Forest department principal secretary Dipak Kumar Singh informed that a security assessment committee is working on the selection of habitat for bringing the rhinos to the reserve.

Singh further informed that the department will send a formal proposal to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) after the security assessment is over.

Upon the approval of NTCA, the department will be able to translocate rhinos from Kaziranga and Patna Zoo to VTR.

The Patna Zoo presently has 11 rhinos- six male and five female and it have been reported that the zoo had sent rhinos to Delhi, Kanpur, Ranchi and Hyderabad zoos.

One rhino was also sent to the US.

Authorities further informed that a breeding facility for rhinos, which is spread over 2.5 acres of area, is also being finalized.


Rhino census to be conducted from March 23 (Nepal)

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My Republica | March 16, 2020

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CHITWAN: A rhinoceros census is to be conducted from coming March 23. The Chitwan National Park (CNP) has made necessary preparations for that connection after the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) sent a letter to that effect.

A pre-census training would be organised in Sauraha of Chitwan on March 20 and 21, CNP assistant conservation officer Prakash Upreti said. He said about 100 people including the employees of CNP, the elephant breeding centre and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) would attend the training.

According to him, the rhino census will also be held in Parsa, Bardiya and Shuklaphanta national parks. It is said mid-March to mid-April is the appropriate time for the rhino count. Elephants would be used for the census.

Rhino census was conducted before this in 1994, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2015. As per the latest census, the highest number of rhinos was recorded in CNP. Six hundred and five rhinos were counted in CNP. A total of 645 rhinos were counted across the country including CNP.

Rhinos were translocated from CNP to Bardiya and Shuklaphanta in 2016 and 2017 and it is estimated that the rhino population might have increased due to this as well. The number of rhinos killed due to poaching is negligible after the 2015 census. However, the number of rhinos dying due to natural causes has been increasing.


The good, the bad and the ugly of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020

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Mubina Akhtar, Opinion / Northeast Now | March 3, 2020

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On February 29, 2020, two more rhinos were moved out of the Kaziranga National Park to the Manas National Park –a distance of 280km–as part of the translocation programme under the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020.

Both the rhinos–mother “Faguni” and her sub adult offspring “Asha” covered the distance overnight and were released in the Bansbari Range of Manas National Park in the wee hours of March 1. With their release, altogether 20 rhinos have now been shifted to Manas under the IRV programme scheduled to end by the middle of this year. Eighteen rhinos have already been translocated to Manas since 2008.

An ideal habitat for the breeding of the Great Indian One-Horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Kaziranga has seen a rise in the number of the species. The animal shrugged off its ‘endangered’ tag once its population crossed the 2000 mark.

This fuelled an overweening strategy–the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 designed by the Rhino Task Force– that targeted 3,000 rhinos by the year 2020 in the rhino-bearing sanctuaries of Assam.

Manas National Park, another World Heritage Site and Laokhowa and Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuaries remained preferred destinations for the translocation of rhinos under the IRV 2020 initiative. However, translocation to these wildlife areas remained a daunting task as these sites continue to be vulnerable to poaching activities.

Original photo as published by Northeast Now: Translocated rhino at Manas National Park. (Photo: Northeast Now)

The Setback for IRV 2020

Started on April 12, 2008, IRV’s translocation process came under the scanner after more than half of the trans-located rhinos to Manas fell prey to the bullets of poachers. Without adequate patrolling staff, it was a colossal task for a few people to constantly guard the animals against human rapacity.

The killing of these trans-located animals since 2011 in Manas World Heritage Site triggered the World Heritage Committee to send an alarm to the state that further deterioration of protection in Manas and subsequent damage caused to key attributes in Manas may lead to de-listing Manas from the World Heritage Site list.

The death of the rhinos in Manas had been a huge setback for the IRV 2020 programme.

Instead of dealing with the long-term conservation challenges and preservation of this unique site, the Indian Rhino Vision only went on pulling out rhinos from Kaziranga and Pobitora for translocation solely keeping in view the magic figure of 3,000 rhinos by 2020.

They even went on for a temporary band-aid effort of “trimming” horns on rhinos to be trans-located to Burhachapori and also on stray rhinos. The decision, taken at the IRV 2020 partners meeting on January 30, 2014 at the Assam State Zoo was met with strong opposition from conservationists and the State forest department was compelled to abandon the idea.

However, IRV continued with the translocation process and sent another mature female and her offspring to Burhachapori. An ex forest official of the Assam forest department, on conditions of anonymity, said, “Rhinos endure a certain amount of stress during the translocation process. It was a terrible sight– when after regaining consciousness– the mother rhino wounded itself with multiple injuries each time it stumbled on the thorny barrier in the effort to free itself from captivity. Further, the mother suffered a grave cut in the ear during notching, that turned septic and the animal died a slow and painful death. The orphaned calf suffered a great deal during the floods. The calf suffered serious stomach ailments that finally brought the end to the poor animal.”

With the death of the translocated rhinos in Burhachapori the whole IRV process became very controversial. There were allegations that the IRV stakeholders simply washed off their hands once translocation process was over; they were never bothered about the safety of the trans-located animals. This was indeed a grave allegation. The death of rhinos not only contradicts the conservation efforts but undoubtedly overshadowed the whole IRV process.

After the debacle at Burhachapori, many conservation NGOs of the state were seen protesting against the translocation programme of IRV. They held responsible the IRV stakeholders– Department of Environment and Forests, Assam; WWF-India; International Rhino Foundation (IRF); Bodoland Territorial Counci; US Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations associated with the Project — for the death of at least 13 rhinos–those trans-located from Kaziranga and Pobitora.

Kaziranga Wildlife Society, Early Birds, Aranya Suraksha Samity, Green Guard, The Green Society and Centre for Conservation, Education and Research demanded the forest department to stop the translocation process at once. The NGOs alleged that translocation was carried out without prior and proper security arrangement of the targeted area. There were also severe allegations of negligence towards security and health monitoring of the animals. The NGOs also demanded the government to institute an inquiry into the death of all trans-located rhinos and make public the post mortem report of the female rhino died in the ‘Boma’ in Burhachapori.

Several student organizations including the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) also came out to voice their concern against killing of rhinos in the name of “translocation” under Indian Rhino Vision 2020.

Some Good Things

Once home to more than 80 rhinos, the entire rhino population in Manas National Park was wiped out during the ethnic unrest between 1988 and 2001.

The Government of Assam in collaboration with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) started the process of re-introduction of rhinos in Manas. Rhino calves orphaned by flood in Kaziranga National Park and hand-reared in the CWRC –the rescue and rehabilitation centre stationed at Kaziranga—were sent to Manas National Park between the years 2006 and 2014.

From these calves and with those captured from the wild as part of IRV translocation between 2008 and 2012–rhino population in Manas National Park increased to 42 and the population now seemed to be well established.

Along with the growth of a viable Rhino population, Manas regained her (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

However, there have been more negatives than positives in the whole IRV story.


A section of forest staff in the Manas and also rhino experts allege that more than 10 translocated rhinos had been killed since 2011 to 2016, but authorities failed to nab a single culprit. On the other hand, a female rhino remained untraceable for the last two years.

“The same sets of people do the security assessments before every rhino translocation to the Park,” they further alleged.

Protection measures continue to remain inadequate– so much so that–Park authorities and other organizations lost more than 20 camera traps from the Panbari and first addition areas of the Park since 2018.

Poaching simply has not stopped. Sources said a group of poachers had fired at a male rhino recently in Manas National Park. The injured rhino strayed out from the core area and it was detected near a village. Photos show bullet marks on the right shoulder and it was bleeding.

“More than five hand-reared rhinos died in Manas due to infighting as these rhinos were incapable to escape a wild bull. Mixing of hand-reared animals with those captured from the wild simply proved disastrous,” said a forest official.

The primordial wilderness of Manas has been plagued by other challenges like– shrinking of habitat, encroachment of the corridors around the Park, siltation of water bodies, rise in invasive weeds that have the capacity to kill native flora such as grasses and others that are important fodder plants for the rhino along with development activities.

Un-checked growth in tourism activities, road construction along the Indo-Bhutan border and a complete lack of protection of the watershed of Manas have raised more concerns over the future of this World Heritage site. Prime rhino habitat stretches continue to be under encroachment.

Large swathes of the species’ habitat have been lost over the years. More than 200 acres in the Bhuyanpara Range have been encroached (since 2012-2017) but there had been no action to evict the encroachers. Similarly, addition areas of some 350 sq km face the same fate. From the western bank of the river Beki to the critical Panbari range, the Park remains vulnerable without any protection. Important ranges like the Bansbari and Bhuynapara have no designated Range Officer for last couple of years.

The Way Forward

With the growth of wildlife population as well as the ever swelling human habitations in and around the Park, it has become a daunting task to meet these challenges without proper advisory and practice.

“Rhino-bearing areas need to be made encroachment free and scientific management of existing rhino-bearing areas must be taken up urgently,” said an expert on conditions of anonymity.

“Rather than Manas, the State Forest Department must search areas to broaden rhino range around Pobitora and Amchang Wildlife Sanctuaries. The Brahmaputra river channel from Kaziranga to Orang should also be declared as rhino zone.”

“What is lacking in rhino conservation in India is that we have no new research available on the species. We are dependent on other international organizations for all the data and information. The Government must encourage more research and declare a package without the support of any foreign agencies,” he added.


Two more rhinos translocated from Assam’s Kaziranga to Manas National Park 280kms away (India)

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Sumir Karmakar, The Deccan Herald | March 1, 2020

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In another conservation success story, two one-horned rhinos were translocated from Assam’s Kaziranga National Park to Manas National Park situated about 280-kms away, on Sunday. Two sub-adult female rhinos were captured on Saturday and were released in the Bansbari range of Manas in western Assam on the wee hours of Sunday as per protocols of Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020.

The rhino vision 2020, started in 2005 seeks to increase the country’s rhino population to 3,000 through translocation. It’s a joint program of Assam forest department, World Wide Fund for Nature India (WWF-India), International Rhino Foundation (IRI) and Bodoland Territorial Council.

Original photo as published by Deccan Herald: Rhino released in Manas National Park in Assam on Sunday. (Photo credit: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee/WTI)

It is being implemented with the help of several other organisations. With this, the number of rhinos translocated to Manas since 2005 under the vision reached 20 and two more are also likely to be translocated from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

Pobitora having 102 rhinos is situated in the Morigaon district and is about 50kms east from Guwahati. Kaziranga, a Unesco World Heritage Site is the home to the world’s largest number of one-horned rhinos (2,431 as per the 2018 Census) followed by Pobitora (102), Orang National Park (100) and Manas (41).

Sunday’s translocation took the rhino population in Manas to 43. Manas, where the wildlife face threat due to long insurgency problem lost its Unesco (Natural) World Heritage Site tag but translocation of the rhinos contributed to get the status back in 2011.

“During the transportation process, members from the various teams formed by the Translocation Core Committee that included oicials and sta from the Assam forest department, Assam police, AFPF, WWF-India, Wildlife Trust of India, Aaranyak and other organizations accompanied the thin convoy that covered a distance of approximately 280km overnight to reach Manas at around 2.30 am on Sunday,” said a statement issued by Amal Chandra Sarmah, field director of Manas National Park.

It said the IRV2020 programme was one of the key factors that helped Manas Park get back its UNESCO (Natural) World Heritage Site status back in 2011. “It can be expected that rhinos translocation program at Manas will also contribute to the mixing of genes from individuals from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park populations and set up a healthy ground for a breeding population of rhinos for the future of the species. This has also contributed to the overall development of the park including tourism and transboundary cooperation between India and Bhutan,” said the statement. Rhinos in Assam have faced a serious threat from an international gang of poachers. Over 70 rhinos have been killed by poachers since 2013, mostly in Kaziranga and Orang.


Fresh plan to conserve rhinos in Assam (India)

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The Telegraph India | February 25, 2020

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A new rhino programme, Beyond 2020, is being planned in synergy with the National Rhino Conservation Strategy for India.

A source said the programme is being designed and will start once the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 project ends in the middle of this year.

The IRV 2020 is a joint programme of the Assam department of environment and forests, WWF-India and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) with support from the Bodoland Territorial Council, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the local communities.

The programme vision is to increase Assam’s rhino population to 3,000 by 2020 by wild-to-wild translocation from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora wildlife sanctuary to Manas and Dibru Saikhowa National Parks as well as to Laokhowa and Burachopari wildlife sanctuaries.

The last translocation under IRV 2020 will be of two rhinos from Kaziranga to Manas. The rhinos will be captured from Kaziranga on February 29 and released in Manas on March 1, it was decided at a meeting on Monday, the source said adding that the target was to translocate 20 rhinos to Manas under IRV 2020, of which 18 have been sent. “Manas now has more than 40 rhinos which is a good population compared to some years back,” he added.

“The Assam government, WWF-India and the IRF will be there in the new programme too. A few more partners may come later,” the source said.

The National Rhino Conservation Strategy for India, launched in 2019, calls for active engagement between India and Nepal to conserve the greater one-horned rhino.

A forest department official said they have received a report of a rhino being injured at Kuklung in Manas. “It is being treated,” he said.


Wildlife recall: Manas National Park’s experiment with former poachers (State of Assam, India)

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Ishan Kukreti, Down to Earth Magazine | February 14, 2020

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Forty-six-year-old Buddeswar Bodo is a resident of Baska district, Assam. He has seen conflict in his area during the Bodoland insurgency in the 1980s, which ended after the signing of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Accord in February 2003. He survived this period with one arm, after he was attacked by a wild boar while hunting. He claims to have hunted down 16 elephants, six tigers, five rhinos and multiple bears, boars and ungulates with his homemade muzzle loader rifle.

“The easiest to kill were the rhinos and the most difficult ones were the bear and the wild boar,” he says. Buddeswar was a poacher active in the jungles of the Manas National Park (MNP), which falls under the Manas Tiger Reserve (MTR). But today, he is one among many poachers who have renounced hunting to protect wildlife. He works as a forest guard at MNP.

Buddeswar is also a member of Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society (MMES), a community conservation organisation active in the eastern side of MNP. MMES has 50 field staff, most of them former poachers. MMES was formed in December 2003 by local youth with an aim to conserve biodiversity through community participation in ecotourism. The society runs ecotourism camps and recently started a weaving centre. The revenue goes back to the community through development projects.

In 2004, MMES started employing poachers as volunteers with the BTC forest department to use their knowhow about the area and animals for conservation. “They helped forest officials with anti-poaching activities, undertaking patrolling of the area. This not only increased the surveillance, but also provided additional personnel to protect the area,” says Partho Pratim Das, tourism advisor to BTC.

“Volunteers were given a monthly stipend. Initially it was Rs 3,000, but now has been increased to Rs 6,000. At present, there are around 400 volunteers protecting the MNP.”

MMES has also generated alternate livelihood options for those villages that did not volunteer. For instance, they provided training to villagers to make bamboo sticks used to produce incense. “We also helped create market linkages,” says Kalicharan Basumatary, president of MMES.

Efforts by community conservation organisations like MMES, and more recently 17 other such organisations under the banner of United Front for Conservation of Nature, are bringing about a refreshing change in wildlife management.

MNP falls within the territorial domain of BTC. It is part of the larger MTR which covers an area of 2,837 sq km. The park in India shares its international border with Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park. Together these two Protected Areas form the Manas landscape. With the inception of the armed Bodoland movement for autonomy, the people as well as the biodiversity of the area suffered immensely.

When the BTC Accord was finally signed, nothing much remained of the park or its wild inhabitants. Timber was illegally logged and wildlife was indiscriminately poached in the absence of any administrative control over the area.

“I remember in the conflict years, no staff would venture into the forest. We would sit in the range office and even that was in danger,” says Babul Bhrama, who is the range officer of Bansbadi in the eastern part of MNP. Insurgency had an impact on the biodiversity in multiple ways. One was the breakdown of administration, the other was that the insurgents saw the park and the wildlife there as their property.

“The general attitude then was that anything that was government had to be destroyed. The wildlife and the forest sadly fell in the same category,” says Pratim Das. He also says insurgents were used for poaching activities.

In MNP, despite the complete collapse of governance during the conflict years, wildlife has today made a stunning comeback. Community initiatives have transformed the environment.

Today, the park has around 45 rhinos, after a process of translocation from Kaziranga National Park in 2006, and with help from the Wildlife Trust of India; there are nine tigers. Transforming from an area where even officials were scared to go, the park now generates revenue of about Rs 100 crore each year from tourism.

During the armed insurgency period, the number of wildlife dwindled rapidly. From 85-100 in 1990, the forest department says that not a single rhino was traced in the next survey in 2001. “Rhino numbers during that time went down to such an extent we could not even find one,” says Amol Sarma, director, MTR.

The crisis was such that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared MNP as a World Heritage Site in 1986, and then put the park on its list of World Heritage in Danger in 2003. The Wildlife Protection Society of India says the worst period for poaching was between 1988 and 1997.

Overcoming Struggle

“The efforts to conserve wildlife came from the community, and women took the lead. Women decided that they would no longer cook bush meat,” says Basumatary. “The people now realise that this is their forest and they have the responsibility of preserving it,” Kampa Borgoyari, deputy chief executive of BTC told Down To Earth.

The reasons, however, for Buddeswar to quit poaching were socio-political. “There was no work during insurgency. The police would pick up any young man in the area on the pretext of being an insurgent. I fled to Bhutan and worked in an orange orchard,” he says. Here too, his poaching skills helped him. “The Bhutanese don’t kill animals, so they asked me to kill the elephants, promising around R1,200 per kg of ivory,” he says.

The coming of the area under BTC helped change the power equation. It was no longer the state vs the people. The people had their own government in the form of BTC. The conservation success of MNP has had a cascading effect — the park has been incorporated in the first transboundary conservation area in Asia named the Peace Park. The park combines wildlife areas of Nepal, Bhutan and India, and provides wildlife a sanctuary, without constraints of political borders.

“Manas is exemplifying the importance of involving the local people in conservation efforts,” says the Status of Tigers, co-predators and prey in India of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was published in 2008.

Akagera Park records 25% revenue growth (Rwanda)

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Collins Mwai, New Times | January 23, 2020

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Akagera National Park received more than 49,000 visitors and generated $2.5 million in park revenue last year (2019), a 25 per cent increase compared to 2018.

The park’s management said that the revenues made last year account for about 90 per cent of their annual budget.

The number of visitors to the park has grown in recent years since the 2010 signing of a private public partnership agreement African Parks, a non-profit conservation organisation managing 10 national parks and protected areas in seven African countries, took over its management.

Original photo as published by The New Times: Zebras in Akagera National Park. (Photos by Emmanuel Kwizera)

Of the revenue, $525,000 was spent in directly contributing to the local community through salaries of local staff and local purchases in 2019.

Sarah Hall, the Tourism and Marketing Manager at Akagera National Park, told The New Times that they have seen growth in recent years following the public private partnership.

Of the visitors to the park, 48 per cent were Rwandan citizens.

Hall said that there has been growth in interest in the park in recent years while aerial counts show an increase in number of animals in the park.

The aerial census for 2019 has shown an increase in overall animal population with a total of 13,500 animals recorded. This is up from 12,000 counted in 2017.

Last year, the park received five eastern black rhinos from a zoo in Czech Republic further growing interest in the park.

The return of rhinos to the park gave it the ‘Big 5’ status; having lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and elephant.

Before the reintroduction of the rhinos, the park had in 2015 re-introduced lions in Akagera National Park in 2015 after they were translocated from South Africa.

Hall said that they expected to see continued growth in visitors and revenue in the course of the year as Akagera Game Lodge ran by Mantis Group is in the process of renovation.

Hall added that with the road from Kabarondo to the park now tarmacked, they hope to have easier access to the part and consequently more guests.

The park’s peak seasons like most of Rwanda’s tourism facilities are twice annually; July-August and December–January.

In regards to visitor trends, Hall said that there has been an increase in visitors from Francophone countries.

The continued growth and improvement of the park Hall said ought to mean more options and opportunity for local tourism companies as they now have ‘more to sell’ to clients.

Five rhinos resettled in Rwanda from Czech zoo

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Lowvelder | January 5, 2020

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The arrival of the rhinos marks the second translocation to Rwanda after South Africa donated 17 rhinos in 2017, reintroducing the species after it had disappeared for over a decade due to intense poaching.

That initial population has now grown to 20 in the park, which is considered an excellent habitat for the rhinos.

“This unique achievement represents the culmination of an unprecedented international effort to improve the survival prospects of a critically endangered rhino subspecies in the wild,” said Jes Gruner, manager of Akagera National Park.

Original photo as published by The Lowvelder: There are about 5,000 black rhinos remaining across their range in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, making them one of the most critically endangered species in the world. (© AFP | TONY KARUMBA)

“Their arrival also marks an important step in Akagera’s ongoing revitalization and one that underscores the country’s commitment to conservation.”

The rhinos began their journey on Sunday after months of preparation at Safari Park Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic, according to the Rwanda Development Board.

The two male and three female rhinos — needed to widen the gene pool in the park — will live in enclosed spaces with the aim of increasing their adaptability and survival rate.

There are about 5,000 black rhinos remaining across their range in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, making them one of the most critically endangered species in the world.

Rwanda also reintroduced lions — from South Africa in 2015 — after they had disappeared from the country for about 15 years.

“Just under a decade of management with improved law enforcement and strong community and economic development initiatives has seen poaching practically eliminated, key species including lion and rhino returned, significant support fostered for conservation, and vibrant tourism leading to Akagera being 80 percent self-financing,” read a statement from African Parks which assisted the translocation.

Rwanda received 1.3 million visitor arrivals in 2017 and tourism is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner, government statistics show.


British troops help relocate endangered black rhinos as part of anti-poaching mission (Malawi)

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Sky News | December 26, 2019

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Troops from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles have recently come back from a three-month counter-poaching deployment in Malawi, southeastern Africa.

Based in Liwonde National Park, near the border with Mozambique, they worked in conjunction with African Parks, a conservation organisation.

They trained current and new rangers in a bid to crack down on the illegal trade by improving the effectiveness of patrols.

Original photo as published by Sky News: The troops worked in conjunction with African Parks, a conservation organization.

While they were there, the soldiers helped with one of the biggest international rhino translocations so far, offloading the 1.4-tonne animals which had been transported by air and road from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The mission saw 17 black rhinos moved from South Africa to Malawi, according to African Parks.

There are around 5,500 black rhinos in the wild today.

Major Jez England, officer commanding British Army Counter-Poaching Team in Liwonde, described the operation as “hugely successful”.

He added: “Not only do we share skills with the rangers, improving their efficiency and ability to patrol larger areas, but it also provides a unique opportunity for our soldiers to train in a challenging environment.

“Helping with the rhino move was a fitting end to our time in Malawi, getting up close to the animals we are here to help protect was an experience the soldiers won’t forget.”

The army has helped train 200 rangers in Malawi – and no high-value species have been poached in Liwonde since 2017.

Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife also worked on the project.

It will help boost the rhino population in the region and help preserve the critically endangered species for the next generation.

The 17 rhinos have been monitored intensely since their release, as they settle in to their new environment.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest transnational crime behind drugs, arms and human trafficking and can have hugely destabilising consequences.

He added: “With this deployment, our armed forces have once again demonstrated their versatility and value by contributing to the conservation work taking place in Malawi.

“Working with local communities, host governments and wildlife groups is key to our approach, we want to see sustainable, community-led solutions that help promote security and stability for both the people and wildlife of Africa.”

The UK government has committed more than £36m to tackle the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2021, with the counter-poaching ranger partnering programme funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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

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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.