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lockdown Archives - Rhino Review

No selfies with animals: Why lockdown is forcing Assam Forest Dept to issue new advisories (India)

By Conservation, Education
Tora Agarwala, The Indian Express | April 4, 2020

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“Don’t take a selfie with the wild animal, don’t go too close to the wild animal, don’t make a noise near the wild animal.”

These are among the many guidelines the Assam Forest Department has issued to sensitise the public about “free-ranging” wild animals that they might come across during the nationwide lockdown. On Friday, the advisory appeared in all local papers in the state, appealing the public to cooperate with the authorities. “During the current lockdown period, due to minimal human and vehicular disturbances, some wild animals may move freely into the human habitats from the nearby notified Reserved Forests and Protected Areas” said the appeal, listing out a set of Dos and Don’ts.

Wild animals venturing into human habitation is not a new phenomena — at least in Assam, in which 34.21 per cent of total geographical area lies under forest cover. In fact, Guwahati, the state’s busy capital city shares its boundary with the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, and a number of notified Reserve Forests.

What has changed post lockdown is the frequency of sightings and the distances the animals cover, according to forest officials here.

For example, on March 24, a rhinoceros emerged out of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary (PWS), travelling at least 25 km to Khetri in Sonapur. Famous for its population of one-horned rhinos, PWS is about 46 km from Guwahati.

Original photo as published by Indian Express: Kaziranga: A one-horned rhinoceros seen at the Bagori Range of Kaziranga National Park in Nagaon district of Assam.

“Usually come they come to the Maloibari Pothaar, right next to Pobitora,” said Dilip Das, Range Officer, Sonapur, “This time, however, probably because of lack of villagers/sounds of cars, it reached right up to Khetri.”  The animal was located almost three days later, and put back into PWS.

MK Yadava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam, said that at least four-five cases are reported every day since the lockdown was announced. “Since people might mistreat, overreact, gather together, we decided to issue this appeal,” he said. The advertisement also includes two helpline numbers to a designated Control Room, to report sightings.

Last week, in a village in Assam Jorhat district, a leopard was killed by the authorities in “self-defence” after it attacked a member of the tranquillising team and a BSF jawaan. “The fringe areas, between village and forests, are natural habitats of leopards,” said Bidyut Bartahkur, Divisional Forest Office, Jorhat.

This area, too, was a “fringe area” but Barthakur said that what led the leopard to come out was “probably the silence” in the area. In Dibrugarh’s Tingkhong, two juvenile leopards died on March 30. “It is difficult to say for sure that it was because of the lockdown — because it is common for leopards to venture into villages. However, young ten-month old leopards usually do not,” said Pradipta Baruah, Dibrugarh DFO.

Hemkanta Talukdar, Chief Conservator of Forest, Central Assam Circle said that it would be a stretch to say big animals are reclaiming human habitats, all of a sudden, post lockdown. But he mentioned a “fifty per cent decrease in anthropogenic pressure” since the lockdown came into effect. “The watch-houses in the fields, where humans would stand guard to check wild animals are empty, all of a sudden there are no sounds of vehicles from the highway, they don’t hear any movement,” he said.

Last week, a swarm of birds — Whistling Teals — were seen in Guwahati’s Dighalipukhuri area, it created a buzz on social media. “These birds are not uncommon in Guwahati — but they usually tend to gravitate towards quiet areas and deep waters,” said Baruah, “Dighalipukhuri lake is usually buzzing with human activity: pedestrians, boat rides etc. The lack of activity is probably what brought them to the lake.”

Jayaditya Purkayashta, a Guwahati-based herpetologist said that it is possible that these sightings were increasing because now people have the time to see these birds they have not seen for decades. “So whenever they see something — even if it’s a lizard in the garden — they feel it needs to be rescued,” said Purkayashta, who has long researched on the ‘urban-biodiversity’ of the city. “While there is a slight change, big animals won’t change their habitat so soon,” Purkayashta said.

Rhino census postponed (Nepal)

By Conservation
Khabarhub | April 6, 2020

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CHITWAN: The likelihood of conducting rhino census looks but unfeasible due to the lockdown in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and the adverse weather on top of it.

However, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) has completed all preparations for the census.

The rhino census was slated to be held from March 23 but was suspended as the country went into lockdown. Although it was said to be started from March 14, it was deferred to March 23 citing unfavorable weather.

DNPWC deputy director-general Ram Chandra Kandel said the month of Chait (mid-March to mid-April) is the right time for counting rhinos.

Original photo as published by The Khabarhub: A rhino seen at Chitwan National Park. (File Photo/Khabarhub)

According to him, the month before this is not considered suitable because of cold, muddy terrain and thick bushes in the rhino habitat. Similarly, the time is not suitable in May as well due to hot weather and the risk of bush fire.

He said the situation is such that they would not be in a position to conduct the rhino census this year. The rhino census was to be conducted in the Chitwan National Park and the national park in Parsa, Bardiya, and Shuklaphanta.

The Department had earmarked Rs 11 million 35 thousand for this purpose.

Rhino census was done in Nepal in 1994, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2015 before this. The latest census had counted 645 rhinos in the country, including 605 in Chitwan National Park alone.

Poachers nabbed in Etosha (Namibia)

By Antipoaching
Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun | April 2, 2020

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Two alleged poachers were arrested last Friday for killing a rhino in Etosha National Park. According to the spokesperson of the environment ministry, Romeo Muyunda, the poaching took place in the north-eastern part of the park.

Two other Namibians were arrested at Oshakati last week for conspiring to poach a rhino. Mbakondja Tjatindi and Matias Kaurikengerua were found in possession of a hunting rifle and 45 rounds of ammunition.

Bail in Rhino Case

A Chinese national was granted bail last week in a poaching case involving two rhino horns. Yi Chen Yu was released on N$100,000 bail on 23 March.

His three Namibian co-accused – Absalom Fillimon, Nghiyelepo Edward and Paavo Ndawedwa Nepembe – were granted N$20,000 bail each. The case, dating back to June 2017, was postponed to 15 June for fixing of a trial date.

Original photo as published by The Namibian Sun: TARGETED: Two alleged poachers were arrested last Friday for killing a rhino in Etosha National Park. PHOTO: FILE

Horn Theft

In the matter regarding the theft of 33 rhino horns from a farm in the Outjo district, two of the accused, Petrus Iipinge and Pendapala Paulus, were granted bail of N$30,000 each on 23 March.

The other two accused, Ludwig Ndinelago and Fortunato Jose Queta, were remanded in custody. The matter was postponed until 14 May for further investigations.

Death Toll

Nine rhinos and one elephant have been killed by poachers this year. Muyunda said wildlife security will not be compromised during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Our anti-poaching activities will not be affected by this situation. In fact, we are stepping up. We know people are trying to take chances because of this lockdown, under the assumption that we have scaled down our security detail.

“The two suspects arrested underestimated our capabilities and this should serve as a warning to those who want to commit similar crimes – we are on full alert,” Muyunda warned.