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About Indian Rhinoceros

Context:

Three lifeless rhinos have risen from the ashes of the most conspicuous part of the herbivore, at the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Protected Areas, Species in news)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Indian rhinoceros
  2. Status of Rhinoceros in India
  3. Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme
  4. Other efforts to conserve rhinoceros in India
  5. Kaziranga National Park
Details: 
  • Three lifeless rhinos have risen from the ashes of the most conspicuous part of the herbivore, at the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.
  • Assam Chief Minister unveiled a memorial to the greater one-horned rhino and the forest guards the 1,300 sq. km tiger reserve owes its existence to.
  • The ash collected from the burning of a stockpile of 2,479 rhino horns, seized from poachers and smugglers and collected from animals that died naturally, was used in the concrete mix to create the life-size rhinos – a 10.5-foot-long and 6-foot-tall male, an 11×5.6 foot female and a 3.5×1.5 foot calf.

About Indian rhinoceros

  • The Indian rhinoceros also called the Indian rhino, greater one-horned rhinoceros or great Indian rhinoceros, is a rhinoceros species native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 square kilometers.
  • Moreover, the extent and quality of the rhino’s most important habitat, the alluvial Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands and riverine forest, is considered to be in decline due to human and livestock encroachment.
  • The Census of Rhinoceros is undertaken at the State-level by the respective State Governments periodically.

Status of Rhinoceros in India

  • The population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros reached to the brink of extinction by the end of the 20th century with fewer than 200 animals in wild.
  • The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting and agricultural development reduced its range drastically to 11 sites in northern India and southern Nepal.
  • Nearly 85% of the global Indian rhinoceros population is concentrated in Assam, where Kaziranga National Park contains 70% of rhino population.
  • Kaziranga National Park alone had an estimated population of more than 2,000 rhinos in 2009.
  • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam has the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world.
  • Although poaching remains a continuous threat (more than 150 rhinos were killed in Assam by poachers between 2000 and 2006), their numbers have increased due to conservation measures taken by the government.

Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme

  • The WHO-India launched Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme to protect and increase the population of the one-horned rhinoceros.
  • It is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.

IVR 2020 is a partnership among:

  • Government of Assam,
  • International Rhino Foundation,
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
  • Bodoland Territorial Council, and
  • U.S. Fish & World Wildlife foundation.

Procedure followed

  • The horns of rhinos will be trimmed (in a way that any damage is not done to their internal organs and the trimmed horns will grow back to their original shape within a few months) before their translocation to protect them from the poachers, who hunt them just to take away their horns.
  • Manas National Park was the first to receive translocated rhinos.
  • One of the biggest challenges turned out to be the difficulty in obtaining etorphine — a major component of the tranquilizing drug used to sedate large wild animals like rhinos and elephants.
  • In partnership with local NGO’s and the State Agriculture Department, the livelihood options of the communities living on the fringes of the park are being developed by undertaking agriculture support programs.

Other efforts to conserve rhinoceros in India

National Conservation Strategy for the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros

  • It was launched in 2019 to conserve the greater one-horned rhinoceros.
  • It is a first of its kind for the species in India which aims to work for the conservation of the species under five objectives which include strengthening protection, expanding the distribution range, research and monitoring, and adequate and sustained funding.
  • Its goal is to repopulate Rhinoceros population in those areas also which used to hold the Rhinoceros earlier by augmenting the existing conservation efforts and strengthening them through scientific and administrative measures.

New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019

  • India and four rhino range nations have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
  • India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.

Kaziranga National Park

  • Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam.
  • It is a World Heritage Site and hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses.
  • Kaziranga is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for conservation of avifaunal species.
  • Along with the iconic Greater one-horned rhinoceros, the park is the breeding ground of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
  • Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
  • Due to the difference in altitude between the eastern and western areas of the park, here one can see mainly four types of vegetation’ like alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests.
  • Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, criss-crossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park includes numerous small bodies of water.
  • Kaziranga has flat expanses of fertile, alluvial soil, formed by erosion and silt deposition by the River Brahmaputra.
  • The history of Kaziranga as a protected area can be traced back to 1904 when the wife of the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon visited the area and persuaded to take measures to protect rhinoceros in the area.

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