Why Greater one-horned rhino matter : Threats and Conservation aspects

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World Rhino Day is celebrated on 22 September every year, initiated by the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa in 2010. This day aims to create awareness on the importance of world’s five rhinoceros species which are Black rhino, White rhino, Greater one-horned rhino, Sumatran and Javan. The Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran are the three species of rhino in Asia, whereas the two African rhino species are black rhino and white rhino.

In India, Greater one-horned rhino is found and is included in the Schedule – I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The scientific name of Indian rhino is Rhinoceros unicornis, these animals are mega-herbivores weighing over 1000 kgs. As per the literature, these iconic species have functional role in maintaining forest ecosystem and biodiversity of their landscape. Hence they are also called keystone species. Researchers have revealed that rhinos by eating grasses indirectly affect smaller herbivores creating a cascading effects for other species as well. They also help in phenomenon of seed dispersion through excreta.

Further rhinos contribute to the economic growth through the tourism sector. Ecotourism serve as an important source of income for local people. In India, wildlife tourism is increasing mainly because of the interest of people to see/ observe faunal species in forests like Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, Greater one- horned rhinoceros, Asiatic lions etc. Also the presence of bird species and arrival of winter migratory birds attracts the tourists to stay connected with protected areas of the country. Unique landscapes and frequent sighting of wild animals form major tourist attraction during wildlife expedition. Recent statistics reveal that wildlife safaris in Indian forests account for one third of tourism sector. By protecting rhinos, the opportunities of ecotourism are supported and thereby helping in the livelihood of local communities. The day throws the light on the need to save this beautiful animal.

 

S.No.

Species

IUCN Red List Classification

  1.  

Black Rhino

Critically Endangered

  1.  

White Rhino

Near Threatened

  1.  

Greater- one horned Rhino

Vulnerable

  1.  

Javan Rhino

Critically Endangered

  1.  

Sumatran Rhino

Critically Endangered

 

Threats and conservation efforts

The Indian rhino were once abundant in alluvial plains of India but due to uncontrolled poaching (horns), degradation and loss of available habitats; rhino populations are threatened (data available on web). As per the IUCN, it falls under the category of Vulnerable. In India, the species occurs in Kaziranga National Park (World Heritage Site), Manas National Park (World Heritage Site), Dudhwa National Park (re-introduced population), Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Orang National Park, Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, and Gorumara National Park. Out of the all conservation measures taken by the government and NGOs, the captive breeding programmes have been proved to be the most successful in Indian rhinos. At present, majority of the Indian rhinos population is concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in 2016 implemented a project called RhoDIS (Rhino DNA Index system) to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL), University of Pretoria, South Africa has developed this RhODIS for active conservation and management practices on rhino conservation. Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Dehradun is the nodal agency for the project. The RhODIS would help provide concrete evidence, as required for conviction in poaching cases.

Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020: Collaboration between the Government of Assam, the International Rhino Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the Bodoland Territorial Council, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 has been developed which aims to protect and increase the population of the one-horned rhinoceros. IRV 2020 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, Manas national parks; & Laokhowa, Burachapori and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.

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