Poaching of translocated rhinos in Manas: Concerns of WWF-India



Posted on 14 January 2013  | 
Indian one-horned rhinoceros
Indian one-horned rhinoceros
© Gerald S. CUBITT/WWF-Canon Enlarge
WWF-India is concerned about the recent poaching of a rhinoceros in the Manas National Park within the Indian state of Assam that was reported on 13 January 2013. WWF-India’s field team identified the poached rhino to be Rhino 2, which was translocated to Manas from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2008.

This is the third translocated rhino that has been poached in Manas. Between 2008 and 2012, a total of 18 rhinos had been translocated to Manas, and out of these three have been poached in a span of 18 months. The first rhino carcass was recovered on 14 October 2011, that of Rhino 1 which was translocated from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary as well. The second carcass, that of Rhino 12 was located on 23 May 2012 with its horn chopped off. Two bullets, one from a .303 bore rifle and another of an automatic assault rifle were recovered from the carcass. This second poaching was carried out at Chengmarijhar in the Bhuyapara Range of the Manas National Park. Rhino 12 was an adult female which was from the first batch of rhinos captured at Kaziranga National Park on 19 February 2012 and released at Manas National Park on 20 February 2012.

It seems that the authorities of the Manas National Park, and the State Forest Department, have not learnt lessons from the earlier poaching incidents and as a result one more rhino has been lost. The recent poaching has been reported from the Bhatgali area within the Basbari Range of the Park. It is important to note that the site where the carcass has been located is within 3km of three anti-poaching camps, namely Bhatgali, Kahibari and Fort. Clearly, the patrolling supposed to be carried out by the frontline staff of the Park posted in these camps was not being carried out effectively.

The radio-collar fitted on this rhino appears to have fallen off during November 2012, which meant that it could no longer be monitored remotely. Since then, it became imperative to conduct regular elephant and foot patrols to ensure security for this rhino. This rhino was last located by a WWF-India field team on 31 December 2012. Following this, efforts were on by the frontline staff of the Park to track the animal but these were found to be insufficient and ultimately it fell prey to poachers.

WWF is increasingly concerned about the level of commitment of the Assam State Forest Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council in providing protection to the translocated rhinos in Manas. These rhinos have been translocated to Manas under the aegis of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020, a joint program of the Assam State Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, International Rhino Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service and WWF-India and all partners have pledged their commitment to the program of bringing rhinos back to Manas. However, the primary responsibility of ensuring the security of the translocated rhinos rests with the State Government and its various departments and without their full attention to this, there is a danger that the vision of Indian Rhino Vision 2020 will not be achieved.

WWF calls upon the Assam State Government, the State Forest Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council, to take exemplary action so that these kind of unlawful incidents are averted in future.

We urge the State Government and the Bodoland Territorial Council to immediately enhance protection within the Manas National Park and ensure that patrolling is done effectively round the clock to deter further attempts of poachers to kill rhinos or any other wildlife.

We also suggest that the intelligence gathering mechanism is enhanced to secure prior information on such attempts to halt further assault on the translocated rhinos.

WWF-India remains committed to conservation of rhinos through the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 program, and strongly urges the Assam State Forest Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council to take the above-mentioned steps which are necessary to ensure zero poaching in the Manas National Park.

Note: High resolution photographs and b-roll video footage of rhinos available upon request

For more information:
Dr. Dipankar Ghose, Director, Species & Landscapes, dghose@wwfindia.net, +91 4150 4782
Amit Sharma, Coordinator, Rhino Conservation, amitsharma@wwfindia.net, +91 943501 5657

About IRV 2020:
The IRV 2020 is a joint programme of the Department of Environment and Forests – Government of Assam, WWF-India and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) with support from the Bodoland Territorial Council, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the local communities.

The programme’s vision is to increase Assam’s rhino population to 3000 by 2020, which will be done by wild-to-wild translocation from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Manas and Dibru Saikhowa National Parks as well as Laokhowa and Burachopari Wildlife Sanctuaries. Assam accounts for the largest population of Indian rhinoceros. Though rhino numbers in the state have grown from 2000 in 2005 to over 2700 in 2011, more than 90% of these live in just one Protected Area, which is the Kaziranga National Park. The IRV 2020 programme aims to secure the long term survival of wild rhinos in Assam by expanding their distribution to reduce risks like disease, in-breeding depression and mass mortality.
Indian one-horned rhinoceros
Indian one-horned rhinoceros
© Gerald S. CUBITT/WWF-Canon Enlarge

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