Weekly Current Affairs

Notice

Rhinoceros: a successful conservation story in India

  • From a population of barely 75 in 1905, Indian rhinos numbered over 2,700 by 2012, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India).
  • The Indian rhino was moved from its status of endangered (since 1986) to vulnerable in 2008 by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • This was after a survey in 2007 by the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group, which estimated that there were close to 2,575 one-horned rhinos in the wild, spread across parts of India and Nepal, with India being home to 2,200 rhinos, or over 85 per cent of the population.
  • Known by the scientific name of Rhinoceros unicornis, these animals are megaherbivores, part of a small and disappearing group that weigh over 1,000 kilograms and include the elephant and the hippopotamus.
  • These large herbivores are shapers of their landscape and environment, and the rhino may well be a keystone species - known to have a disproportionately large impact on its environment relative to its population - according to research conducted in South Africa’s Kruger National Park in 2014.
  • By eating only certain kinds of grass - and trampling upon dense vegetation - rhinos indirectly affect smaller herbivores in their area, creating a cascade of effects that, in turn, affects other species as well.
  • The Indian rhinoceros is also known to help in seed dispersion, moving large tree seeds from forested areas to grasslands through excreta.
  • The habitat of the Indian rhino once extended from Pakistan into northern India and modern-day Myanmar, reaching into Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
  • Population was lost due to loss of large tracts of habitat and extensive poaching for its horn - believed to have medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties.
  • Rhinos need to move to ecologically similar but distant areas to ensure species survival, according to the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 programme (IRV2020), a collaborative effort between various organisations, including the International Rhino Foundation, Assam’s Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, WWF-India, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • The first successful attempt to move rhinos out of Assam and re-introduce them into a similar habitat was made in 1984 in Uttar Pradesh’s Dudhwa national park, which has 33 rhinos today.
  • IRV2020 hopes to raise the number of rhinos in Assam to 3,000 by 2020 and spread them over seven of the state’s protected areas: Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang national park, Manas national park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.