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No space for rhinos in sanctuary



- By Manoj Anand

The Asian Age, New Delhi, 05 August 2006

Guwahati, Aug. 4: A few decades back, the declining rhino population in Assam was a major conservation problem. But after the 2006 rhino census, success in conservation seems to have become one of the biggest worries for the forest department.

The chief conservator of forest (wild-life) M.C. Malakar told this newspaper that they are working on a proposal to translocate some rhinos from Pobitra wildlife sanctuary, which is now overpopulated, to Manas National Park but the final decision is yet to be taken.

Referring to the rhino census, he said: "The census of 2006 has recorded a phenomenal growth in rhino population in all the three rhino wild-life sanctuaries of the state."

In Kaziranga National Park, there are at least 1,855 rhinos, which is an increase of 20 per cent since last census of 1999 where as the Orang Wild life sanctuary has recorded a highest growth of population. In 1996, Oranag National Park had 46 rhinos and this year census has recorded the presence of 68 rhinos in the park.
Talking about the census in Kaziranga, he clarified that they could not carry out the scientific census because of early rain last year as grassland could not be burnt thoroughly which is necessary for census.

"We have recorded the existence of 1,855 rhinos in Kaziranga through physical spotting," he said adding that the number of actual rhinos would go up in scientific census, which is carried out after a gap of six years in Assam. In Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, there are now 81 animals, a ten per cent increase over the last six years. But the success in conservation has only increased the worries of the wildlife authorities as Mr Malakar pointed out: "These 81 rhinos are surviving on merely 16 square kilometre area of the park. Though, the total notified area of the park is about 38.80 square kilometre but the remaining area is jagged with hillocks."

Pobitora was declared a reserve forest in 1971 and a wildlife sanctuary ten years later.

He also admitted: "Pobitora has exceeded its rhino-bearing capacity and is overpopulated. The animals have begun moving outside the sanctuary in search of food, and chances of serious man-animal conflict are quite rife." Besides, the straying animals have the risk of contracting diseases that afflict domestic animals. The other wildlife experts, however, regretted that the sanctuary is surrounded by villages on all sides and so there is little scope of expanding the protected area and this makes the animals more vulnerable to poachers than ever before.





 

 

 

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