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Jaldapara rhino count up by 35

- Census shows 184 animals in park, foresters worried about sex ratio

Alipurduar, Feb. 25: The latest rhino census in Jaldapara has revealed that there are 184 one-horned rhinos in the national park, an increase of 35 compared to last year but foresters are worried that the male-female ratio is 1:1 when the ideal ratio is 1:3.

The census in 2011 had shown there were 149 rhinos in Jaldapara forest.

“There are 184 rhinos in Jaldapara National Park, according to the report prepared after the census held on Saturday and Sunday. The method was direct sighting. There are 61 males, 55 females, three rhinos whose sex could not be determined, 23 sub-adults and 42 calves in an area of 216.15sqkm,” said Rajendra Jakhar, the divisional forest officer, wildlife-III.

Foresters said it was difficult to determine the sex of a few of the animals from a distance and hence they were put in a separate category.

According to forest sources, maximum number of rhinos were spotted in Jaldapara east range (97), west and north ranges had 36 and 34 rhinos, respectively. Fifteen rhinos were spotted in Kodalbusty range and two in Chilapata range.

Jakhar said the ideal male-female ratio for rhinos is 1:3 (one male and three females), but the ratio in the park was 1:1. “We are worried about the male-female ratio in Jaldapara which is 1:1. It should be at least 1:3. We have to take initiative to develop new grassland for rhinos and other herbivores in the forest. We have to work to increase the male-female ratio of the rhinos otherwise the number of infighting cases will increase everyday,” he said.

Since January 2012, 12 rhinos died in the park of suspected infighting.

On February 23 and 24, 300 foresters carried out the rhino census. The survey began from 6am and went on till dark. Foresters were provided with rhino sketches and each animal was identified on the basis of its physical features. This would not only help to identify the animals but also alert foresters in case a rhino goes missing for a long time.

Sources said the information obtained during the census would be used to create profiles of all the rhinos in the park along with photographs and date of birth.

Animesh Bose, the programme co-ordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, a wildlife NGO, said: “It is good news that the number of one-horned rhinos has increased in Jaldapara. But this can be a problem if the grassland area is not increased. The forest officials of Jaldapara should acquire land around the park and go for grass cultivation as soon as possible.”

Apart from one-horned rhinos Jaldapara has other herbivores like deer, gaur, elephants and sambar.

Bose added that foresters should also increase wetlands in the forest.

“The natural wetlands in the forest are in bad shape because of siltation. Forest officials should immediately take up initiatives to revive the wetlands. They should also create artificial water bodies because rhinos prefer muddy surface,” Bose said.