Slumbering through the dense jungles, rhinoceros evoke awe and fear in equal measure and are a sight to behold. But the myth of medicinal value and the menace of poaching brought the species on the brink of extinction.
In order to save the majestic animal, World Rhino Day is observed throughout the world on 22nd September. Started in 2010, the day was created as an attempt to generate awareness about the endangered animal.
The aim was to ignite consciousness to the horrors of poaching on a global scale. India is home to Greater one-horned rhinoceros, a symbol of the Indian subcontinent.
Greater one-horned, or Indian, rhinoceros once roamed from Pakistan to the Indo-Burmese border, and in parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
But by the beginning of the 20th century, hunting and habitat loss had reduced the species to just few hundred. Historically, Indian rhinos were found in the northern part of Indian subcontinent, in the floodplains of Indus, Ganges, Kosi, and Brahmaputra rivers.
However, as of now they are confined to only 10 Protected Areas in India and Nepal.
The highest concentration of the Indian rhino is found in the Kaziranga National Park in Assam which has a population of approximately 2400 individuals as per the 2018 estimation.
Indian government through its National Wildlife Action plan and National Rhino Conservation Strategy of India brought a more focused approach in conservation.
India has been leading from the front in the preservation and conservation of Rhinos. Currently, it has a population of approximately 2980 rhinos spread in seven Protected Areas.
Since 1999, the species is growing at an annual rate of around 3.5% in the country. The country has re-established two new rhino population during the last decade.
Manas where the population was wiped out on account of poaching, through the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 program the rhino population has been re-established and currently it has around 40 rhinos.
A small second rhino population was also re-established in Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh through the conduct of wild to wild translocations in 2018.
Rhino breeding program under the Patna zoo is doing well too and is a very successful model of ex-situ rhino conservation. During the last 15 years more than 10 calves have been born in the zoo which is a record in itself.
The National Rhino Conservation Strategy was adopted for India in 2019 which outlines the roadmap for the conservation of the species in the country.
Recently Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change initiated DNA based forensics investigation of rhino crime cases in India in Rhino bearing areas like in Assam, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh.
All these measures have definitely helped in sustaining and preserving the species and World Rhyno day through its campaign generated more awareness regarding the challenge.
Tapas Bhattacharya’s report