By Animesh DebNew Delhi [India], September 20 (ANI): The Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros population is growing in India, in what could be termed as a bright spot in conservation efforts of the vulnerable species.
In neighbouring Nepal too, their population is reported to be growing. In India and Nepal, the Greater One-Horned Rhino population, which once numbered as low as 100 in the early 1900s, has increased to more than 4,014 now.
International Rhino Foundation (IRF), in its annual'State of the Rhino' report for 2023 released two days ahead of World Rhino Day, attributed the rise in the One-Horned rhino population to strong protection, wildlife crime law enforcement and habitat expansion.
Since 2011, World Rhino Day has been celebrated internationally on September 22.
The One-Horned rhino falls under the"vulnerable" category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list. In India rhinos are found in Assam, parts of West Bengal and Bihar.
Poaching of rhinos in Assam, which is home to the majority of the One-Horned rhino population in India, was in the past rampant but stringent surveillance and other elevated security arrangements being put in by the authorities seem to have addressing the issue.
"In the past year, the Assam government finalized the addition of approximately 200 sq km to Orang National Park in north-central Assam, more than doubling the size of this protected area and key rhino habitat," IRF said in its report. With this habitat expansion, the Orang National Park is now connected to Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary, completing the creation of a linked corridor between all the protected areas in Assam that hold (or are planned to hold) rhinos -- Manas National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Orang National Park, the Laokhowa and Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuaries and Kaziranga National Park. No rhino poaching incident was reported in Assam in 2022, in comparison 27 each in the years 2013 and 2014. After recording no poaching incidents last year, two poaching cases were reported in 2023, one each in Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park, the IRFsaid. To give a clear message to poachers that rhino horns don't attach any medicinal or monetary value, the Assam government has been publicly burning stockpile horns in thousands since September 2022. Nepal too reported zero rhino poaching in 2022. Unfortunately, two rhinos fell prey to poachersin the Chitwan region in January 2023, the International Rhino Foundation report stated. Along with the One-Horned rhino, populations of Black Rhinos globally are increasing despite constant poaching pressure.
Though the population of the One-Horned rhino is growing, poaching still threatens all five rhino species and has increased in several regions that had not previously been targeted, IRF noted in its report.
South Africa is one such country where poaching continues to devastate their white rhino population, as poachers target the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve and other reserves within the KwaZulu-Natal province. Indonesia's Ministry of Environment and Forestry has reported a recently discovered unnatural Javan rhino death that is currently under investigation. According to the report, the ministry also reported that 12 of the Javan rhinos were missing.
In other bad news, Namibia, home to the largest number of black rhinos in the world, saw a devastating 93 per cent spurt in rhino poaching from 2021 to 2022.
"As poaching pressure increases around the continent, the number of white rhinos - the most populous of the five species - continues to decline," IRF said. It is widely believed but unfounded that rhino horns attach medicinal or monetary value, which prompts poaching activities the worldover. The population of white rhinos and Sumatran rhinos, who fall under the "near threatened" and "critically endangered" category, however, have been declining. The Javan rhino population is pegged to be stable at 76, but continues to be "critically endangered", according to the IRF report.
"This World Rhino Day, September 22nd, news about the world's five rhino species remains mixed. Two species, black rhinos and greater one-horned rhinos, continue to increase in numbers, while two species, white rhinos and Sumatran rhinos, are experiencing declines. The remaining species, the Javan rhino, has an unknown population trend status," the report said. (ANI)