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.