Translocation of Rhinos in Assam


    In News

    • December is the best time to translocate the rhinoceros of Assam as flood waters subside by that time as per a study published in Pachyderm journal. 

    Who conducted the study? 

    • The study was carried out in two protected areas in the Brahmaputra river Valley
      • Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and 
      • Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS)
    • It was recently published in the Pachyderm journal.

    About Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS)

    • BWS is contiguous with the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary (LWS) to the south of Brahmaputra River in Assam.
      • The two areas are known collectively as the Laokhowa and Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuaries (LBWS).
    • Following the death after the monsoon floods in 2016 of a lone sub-adult female translocated to BWS from KNP
      • The study compared the behaviour of this individual during high flood periods to that of other adults, sub-adults and calves in KNP in 2017.

    Source: Pachyderm

    About Pachyderm

    • Pachyderm means a very large mammal with thick skin, especially an elephant, rhinoceros, or hippopotamus.
    • Pachyderm is also a bi-annual, international, and peer-reviewed journal that deals primarily with matters related to 
      • African elephant and African and Asian rhino conservation and management in the wild.
    • It is also a platform for the dissemination of information concerning the activities of 
      • the African Elephant, the African Rhino, and the Asian Rhino Specialist Groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

    Key highlights of the study

    • Movement across highlands:
      • The study observed a new behavioural category, i.e swimming.  
      • Despite heavy flood water current, calves and sub-adult rhinos in KNP and especially the lone BWS sub-adult female rhino were observed to swim frequently .
      • The motive for these movements  may  have  been  to  eat  the  aquatic plants or  (in the case of  KNP  individuals)  to avoid other animals.
    • Behaviour towards stress:
      • The study found that during the high flood period, adult rhinos of KNP spent most time resting. 
        • It may be a behavioural response to overcome stress during this time.
      • In contrast, adult rhinos were almost never observed swimming. 
      • They remained on the highland refuges, appeared sluggish and hardly moved. 
        • The minimal movement of adult rhinos was not only a tactic to overcome stress, but also previous experience of high floods .
        • That it is safer to remain on the raised areas and not to attempt to escape by swimming against the strong current.
    • Adult rhinos are the best choice for translocation: 
      • Rather than a sub-adult or a mother with a calf as adult animals have better survival capabilities than others.
    • Best time for translocation:
      • The ideal time for rhino translocation would be early December.
      • This allows areas to recover from the effects of floods in June to September
        • While allowing newly released rhinos sufficient time to settle in their new habitat before the next monsoon starts.

    Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020

    • A rhino reintroduction plan was developed under the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020. 
    • The goal of IRV2020 was to increase the rhino population in Assam to 3,000 by establishing populations in new areas.
    • Rhinos are now found in four protected areas in Assam: 
      • Pobitora Wildlife Reserve, 
      • Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, 
      • Kaziranga National Park and 
      • Manas National Park.
    • It was collectively implemented by 
      • The Department of Environment and Forest, Assam in partnership with Bodo Autonomous Council 
    • Supported by
      • WWF India, 
      • WWF areas (Asian Rhino and Elephant action strategy) program, 
      • the international rhino Foundation(IRF), 
      • US fish and wildlife service, and others support the plan.

    Reasons for Indian Rhino Vision plan

    • Assam had at least five rhino-bearing areas till the 1980s
    • Conservation efforts helped maintain the population of the one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga, Orange and Pobitora National Parks.
      • But the encroachment and poaching wiped out the one-horned rhinos from Manas and Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • Manas National Park thus lost the World Heritage Site tag it received in 1985 along with Kaziranga from UNESCO.
      • However, the translocated rhinos helped Manas National Park get back its World Heritage Site status in 2011.
      • Manas is also known for the near-extinction of the pygmy hog.

    Importance of the study and Conclusion

    • The largest population of Indian rhinoceros lives on the Brahmaputra flood plains.
      • Here, flooding poses a major threat to their survival. 
      • This study finding may therefore be incorporated into the design and implementation of Indian rhino conservation programmes. 
    • Better implementation of Indian Rhinos Conservation Programs
      • Additionally, the study will help shape future expansion programmes for Indian rhinos in the same habitat.

    Greater One-Horned Rhino

    Source: WWF


    • There are three species of rhino in Asia 
      • Greater one-horned (Rhinoceros unicornis), 
      • Javan and 
      • Sumatran.
    • The two greatest threats to the survival of Asia’s rhinos are 
      • poaching for the horns and 
      • habitat loss are 
    • The five rhino range nations 
      • India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia
      • Have signed ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
    • IUCN Red list 
      • Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered 
      • The Greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino is vulnerable 
    • CITES
      • All three listed under Appendix I .
    • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
      • Greater one-horned rhino is listed under the Schedule I of the act. 
    • Habitat of Greater One-Horned Rhino in India
      • The species is restricted to small habitats in Indo-Nepal terai and northern West Bengal and Assam.
        • Kaziranga NP, Pobitora WLS, Orang NP, Manas NP in Assam
        • Jaldapara NP and Gorumara NP in West Bengal and 
        • Dudhwa TR in Uttar Pradesh.

    Source: DTE