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Rhino population hits 2K mark

Guwahati, April 11: Rhino conservation efforts in Kaziranga National Park have borne fruit with the latest census showing an impressive growth in their numbers.

According to the 2009 census, the population of the one-horned Asian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) in the park has been estimated at 2,048, an increase of 193 from the 2006 census.

The two-day rhino census conducted by the forest officials and representatives of various NGOs concluded on Friday.

The results are promising, but there appears to have been an “undercounting”, according to park director S.N. Buragohain. “By my calculation, the figure should have been around 2,400,” he said, adding that the figure is still good despite the cases of poaching and straying of rhinos.

A rhino census in Kaziranga has always been the focus of conservationists as the park is home to more than 90 per cent of the rhinos in the world.

As the census method is only through direct sighting, there could be undercounting because of the tall elephant grass.

“There could be rhino calves hiding under the tall grass which could not be sighted,” a park official said.

The park was divided into small sections and for the past two days, the officials combed each sector from early morning, riding on elephants.

The national park has already been dubbed as the greatest conservation story of the century and Assam is regarded as the last stronghold of the rhino.

Though officials were expecting the figure to be more than 2,000, they wanted to know the exact number so that they can chalk out a proper management plan. “It is a good, stable population but the real test is in ensuring the spread of rhino habitat across different rhino-bearing areas of Assam. To achieve this, the India Rhino Vision 2020 has to be speeded up,” the chairman of Asian Rhino Specialist Group South Asia, Bibhab Talukdar, said.

Vision 2020 is working to increase the population of Indian rhinos to 3,000 by the year 2020 and to translocate the animals in more parks to spread the population evenly.

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