There are more than 4000 one-horned rhinos in the wilds now.
Representational image

The Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) announced that the greater one-horned
rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), found only in India, Nepal and Bhutan, has increased
to 4,014 individuals after a biannual survey was completed in early 2022.

“The population is growing largely due to the governments of India and Nepal creating
habitat for rhinos, while also preventing poaching” AsRg was quoted in the State of Rhino Report brought out by International Rhino Foundation (IRF).

There has been a 167 per cent population increase in one-horned rhinos since the 1980s till 2022.

Every September, the IRF  publishes the State of the Rhino report,  which documents current population estimates and trends, where available, as well as key challenges and conservation developments for the five surviving rhino species in Africa and Asia.

The current population of greater one-horned rhinos in India:

  • Kaziranga National Park: 2613
  • Orang National Park: 125
  • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary: 107
  • Manas National Park: 40
  • Jaldapara National Park: 287
  • Gorumara National Park: 52
  • Dudhwa National Park: 38

“Poaching remains a threat, but authorities in India have had great success in significantly reducing poaching, through intense security and strict enforcement of wildlife crime laws. In 2021, there was only one recorded poaching incident. There has been only one recorded incident in the first half of 2022 as well” the report said.

It said habitat management, in particular control of invasive species, is also paramount to rhino recovery in India. Programs in several parks, including Kaziranga and Manas, are working to restore grasslands for rhinos. India and Nepal are also sharing best practices to control invasive species.

Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020), the program established in 2005 for the purpose of increasing the rhino population in Assam to 3,000 by establishing populations in seven protected areas, came to a close in 2021 with a final translocation of two rhinos from Kaziranga National Park to Manas National Park. Thanks to IRV2020, rhinos are now found in four Protected Areas in Assam: Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park.

“In 2022, the IRV2020 partners met to outline goals for the coming years, with plans to
build on the successes and learnings from the previous program. Meetings to approve
the plan, known as IRV 2.0, have been delayed due to the global pandemic, but the new
program is scheduled to begin soon under the leadership of Assam Forest Department,
along with supporting partners, and translocations could begin again by the end of the
year” the report said.

Nepal completed a nationwide census of greater one-horned rhinos in 2021, and the population now stands at 752, an increase of 107 from the previous survey in 2015. Rhinos in Nepal are found in Chitwan National Park, Parsa National Park, Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta National Park. The Bardia
and Shuklaphanta rhino populations were established through reintroductions.

“The greater one-horned rhino population is gradually increasing at a rate of 3% per
year in Nepal” the report said.

“Changing climate situations are impacting rhino habitat, including an increase in invasive plant species taking over grasslands and the loss of traditional water holes due to dryer conditions. Programs are in place to restore native grass species and water holes to help further increase rhino carrying capacity in Chitwan and other areas” the report said.

 Officials are forecasting a continued growth rate of 3-5% for rhino populations in the country, and hope the habitat management activities will help them exceed this goal. Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade remain a threat to wildlife in Nepal.

Bhutan

Manas National Park straddles the border between India and the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Rhinos are known to cross between the countries and are included in the population
figures for India. Bhutan is an active member of the Asian Rhino Range States, a group of nations collaborating to secure sustainable populations of each of the three Asian rhino species. Bhutan, India and Nepal work together to unify the transboundary management strategy for the greater one-horned rhino.

KEY TAKEAWAYS OF THE State of the Rhino Report

  • The greater one-horned rhino population surpassed 4,000 individuals in India and Nepal.
  • The world’s last remaining population of Javan rhinos remained stable but faced threats including human encroachment and insufficient habitat.
  • Experts estimated a 13% decline for Sumatran rhinos.
  • Africa’s white rhino population, under pressure from poaching, continued to decline.
  • Africa’s black rhino population grew across the continent.
  • Illegal trade in rhino horns continued to drive poaching, with an estimated 1,000 rhino horns traded each year.

Also Read | Assam-Mizoram border: Zoramthanga, Himanta to hold talks on Monday


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