Rhinos, the pride of India are thriving well. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma shared that in 2021, the number of rhinos lost to poaching was the lowest in 21 years. This is a huge milestone in efforts to eliminate the menace of poaching.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also commended Assam’s effort in rhino conservation back in September 2021 when on the occasion of World Rhino Day, the Assam Chief Minister had directed to burn the stockpile of 2,479 single-horned Rhinos. Rhinos are often hunted due to the myth that rhino horns have medicinal value and can be used for medicinal purposes.
Lowest cases of poaching in 21 years
In 2021, only one case of rhino poaching was reported from Kaziranga National Park, when the carcass of an adult male rhino was found with a missing horn.
However, the number of hunting cases has seen a decline over the years in the State. In 2013 and 2014, 27 poaching cases were reported, which decreased to 17 in 2015, and further to 7 in 2018. In the past 3 years i.e, 2019, 2020, and 2021, only 3, 2, and 1 cases were reported respectively. Between 2000 and 2015, a total of 153 rhinos were poached in the state.
The declining numbers are a result of forest officials efforts and the Government’s initiatives. The State Government has also formed Anti-Poaching Task Force (APTF) to keep a check on rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park.
Population of Rhinos in India
The hunting of rhinos pushed the rhinos population to a vulnerable stage. By the start of the 20th century, around 200 wild one-horned rhinos remained. However, timely conservation efforts, strict protection, and management efforts of the Government of India and State Government led to the recovery of species.
Approximately 75% of the entire population of greater one-horned rhinoceros are found in India in the three States viz, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Further, State Governments periodically conduct the census of Rhinoceros at the State-level.
According to World Wide Fund, their population has increased to around 3,700 rhinos in northeastern India and the Terai grasslands of Nepal.
Population of Rhinos in Assam
Assam is home to the largest population of one-horned rhino in India. As of 2017, the Kaziranga National Park houses 2,401 rhinoceros, the largest population of one-horned rhinoceros in the world which constitutes about 68% of the entire world population of one-horned rhinoceros.
With the conservation efforts, the population of rhinos has increased considerably over the years. In addition to Assam, the Indian rhinos can be found in Jaldapara National Park and Gorumara National Park in West Bengal, Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh, etc.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change launched the “National Conservation Strategy for the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros” intending to repopulate the rhinoceros population. The programme has also been implemented in areas that held the rhinoceros earlier by augmenting the existing conservation efforts and strengthening them through scientific and administrative measures.
One-horned rhinoceros is among the 21 species identified for the Recovery programme for critically endangered species by the Ministry. The Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme implemented in Assam helped in restocking the rhino population.
Furthermore, initiatives have been undertaken by the State Governments like West Bengal and Bihar that are working for the reintroduction of the rhinoceros in the areas which used to hold the Rhino populations till a few decades back.