Staff Reporter, News18 | June 4, 2021
When the visitors are away, the rhinos come out to play. With the coronavirus lockdown in effect at Assam’s world heritage Kaziranga National Park, the one-horned behemoths are enjoying some much-needed peace and quiet. A video captured on Friday morning shows about twenty rhinoceroses grazing lazily in the lush green grassland and some drinking from the freshwater bodies around.
Usually one can only see five to six rhinos in close proximity in the park unless there is a flood situation where these animals group together in the highlands, experts say.
The Kaziranga National Park has closed its gates for tourists from May 1 owing to pandemic protocols. The national highway 37 bisecting the park also has very few vehicles now due to inter-district movement restrictions and afternoon lockdown. And the curbs on humans have apparently allowed the rhinos to unlock themselves.
According to the census held in March 2018, which was jointly conducted by the forest department of Assam and some recognised wildlife NGOs, the rhino population in Kaziranga National Park is 2,413.
These massive animals can run at speeds of up to 55 km/h (34 mph) for short periods of time and are also excellent swimmers. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell but relatively poor eyesight.
The largest of the Asian rhinos, male Indian rhinos weigh approximately 2,200 kg (nearly 4,840 pounds) and range in height from 170 to 186 cm (67 to 73 inches) and are 368 to 380 cm (145 to 150 inches) long. Their horn can grow to 45 cm (18 inches). Females are smaller, weighing only 1,600 kg (3,527 pounds) and standing 148 to 173 cm (58 to 68 inches) tall. Female Indian rhinos are 310 to 340 cm (122 to 134 inches) long. A female is pregnant for 16 months before giving birth.
The rhino population in Assam’s Manas National Park witnessed a phenomenal spike between 2005 and 2021. Initially, the population of around 85-100 rhinos was wiped out due to rampant poaching in the area. However, the numbers rose by 48 per cent, owing to the sustained efforts of officials there.
In 2005, the Assam government took the decision of reintroducing these animals in the park under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020). Under the same project, rhinos were shifted from Pobitora Sanctuary to Kaziranga from 2008 to April 13, 2021.