Guwahati: Every year World Rhino Day is observed on September 22, 2022. The day plays an important role in raising awareness to save the rhino species. The horns of rhinos are being hunted for various medicinal purposes. This is one of the reasons for the slow extinction of this species.
So today on World Rhino Day let us know about Assam’s Kaziranga National Park’s remarkable success story of conservation of the One Horned Indian Rhinoceros.
Assam is a state enriched with rich flora and fauna. The state has scripted a success story in the world’s rhino conservation landscape as the Rhinoceros unicornis species or one-horned rhinoceros found in Assam’s Kaziranga Wildlife National Park and other National Parks are well protected. This species was once a severe victim of poaching in the state as the rhino population started dwindling.
The one-horned rhino is a pride of Assam and apart from being the third largest animal, the species is one of the most unique and limited mammals in the world.
Since 2016, the State government has been making concerted efforts to conserve the one-horned rhino which is strongly associated with Assam’s identity while the beautiful creature also occupies a special place in Assamese people’s hearts.
Kaziranga National Park was declared a World Heritage site in 1985. The Kaziranga National Park covers an area of 429.93 Sq.Km. with an additional area of 429.40 Sq.Km. and is situated in 2 districts of Assam, namely Golaghat and Nagaon. The total area of the wildlife conservation park within the Nagaon district is 175 Sq.Km., out of which 135 Sq.Km. falls under Bagori Forest Range office and 40 Sq.Km. falls within the Ghorakati Forest Range office.
With 2,895 rhinos, Assam is home to the largest population of one-horned rhinos in India. Of these, 2,613 rhinos live in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) while Manas National Park has 50, Orang National Park has 125 and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has 107. A four-day rhino census, conducted between 25and 28 March 2022 in KNP, showed an increase of 200 rhinos in the park from 2018 despite 400 deaths, mainly due to natural causes.
Poaching of rhinoceros is a major threat to the species and was a big challenge for the Government of Assam. Poaching for their horns remains a serious threat where the one-horned rhinoceros are killed and their horns are then cut off and smuggled. Despite being illegal and without scientific basis, rhino horns are wrongly perceived to be containing medicinal values and are still used in some traditional Asian medicines for the treatment of a variety of illnesses.
In 2021, Assam witnessed one solitary case of rhino poaching. This is the lowest number of cases the state has seen in 21 years.
According to government data, the one-horned rhinoceros was killed by poachers in Kaziranga National Park in April 2021. The carcass of an adult male rhino was found near Xilekhunda beel of Hanuman forest camp under Kohora range of Kaziranga National Park. The animal’s horn was missing.
Two rhinos were killed in 2020, three in 2019, seven in 2018 and six in 2017. In 2016, 18 rhinos were poached while 17 were killed at different national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in 2015.
Rhino poaching in Assam was at its peak in 2013 and 2014 – 27 rhinos were killed in each of the two years. Between 2000 and 2015, a total of 153 rhinos were poached in the state.
In 2021, the state government formed the Anti-Poaching Task Force (APTF) to keep a check on rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park.
Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma said it was commendable that only one rhino was lost to poaching in Assam in 2021. He said it was a huge milestone in the effort to eliminate the menace of poaching and congratulated forest guards on the achievement.
On World Rhino Day, CM Sarma took to Twitter to announce that the state government is committed to protect the magnificent animal and its habitat. “The one-horned rhino, the pride of Assam, occupies a special place in the hearts & minds of our people. A major tourist attraction, it forms a part of Assam’s culture. On #WorldRhinoDay, I reaffirm our Govt’s strong commitment to protect the magnificent animal & its habitat.”