Guwahati, Oct. 4: Five Asian countries have agreed to share information on criminals/suspects involved in rhino trade.
The declaration, agreed upon by the rhino range states in Asia — Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal — yesterday at their first meeting at Bandar Lampung in Indonesia, also agreed to a common action plan to increase the population of Asian rhino species by three per cent annually by 2020.
“The declaration was approved unanimously at the meeting by the ministerial aides, who believe that there will be no problem in getting ministerial endorsement. I am now looking at a possible ministerial signing at the E 50:50, the first international elephant congress and ministerial meet in New Delhi on November 19,” Simon N. Stuart, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission, told The Telegraph.
E 50:50, a pioneering conference of 50 countries from Asia and Africa that harbour wild populations of elephants, will discuss conservation and welfare of the animals.
The five Asian rhino range countries have resolved to set up a project urgently, through relevant ministries in India and Nepal, under the aegis of the Environmental Crime Programme of Interpol, to share information on criminals/suspects without delay.
This is being done in anticipation that known criminals, who are still at large and who have been active in South Africa, might refocus their attempts to acquire rhino horns through poaching in India and Nepal.
The declaration says continued increase in illegal hunting of rhinos could rapidly jeopardise the improvements that have been achieved in the status of greater one-horned rhino over the last two decades and could easily cause the extinction of the Javan and Sumatran rhinos in the foreseeable future.
In fact, WWF India has stated that high demand for rhino horn from East Asian countries through the illegal wildlife trade, continues to pose the greatest threat to rhinos of Assam and a multi-pronged strategy is needed to tackle the poaching menace.
A senior forest official said a greater coordination between enforcement agencies is required to prevent poaching.
On the greater one-horned rhino, which is found primarily in India and Nepal with a population range of 3,300-3,350, the meeting decided to continue to increase the level of protection in the protected areas with rhino populations and in potential translocation sites to ensure that poaching does not threaten the growth of the population. This will require building more capacity in anti-poaching, especially as the number of population increases.
In India, law enforcement efforts have ensured that rhino poaching remains below a level that can affect the population growth of rhinos.
“However, laudable initiatives such as Indian Rhino Vision 2020, which has the aim of establishing additional populations through translocations, are being threatened by increasing illegal demand for rhino horn,” it said.
The rhino population at Manas now stands at 27. The park has already lost five to poaching. “The situation in Manas is disturbing. Militants are roaming throughout the park and encroachments are increasing,” a park official said.
Bibhab Talukdar, chairman, Asian Rhino Specialist Group, said the critically endangered Javan and Sumatran rhinos need a time-bound action plan to achieve three per cent population growth in the wild.
“While three per cent growth rate has been achieved for the greater one-horned rhino in India and Nepal, the Sumatran and Javan rhinos need renewed intervention for population growth. To maximise the growth rate of Asian rhino populations, sound principles of biological management need to be followed. To achieve the goal of a three per cent annual increase in Asian rhino populations, the establishment of new populations within the former ranges will be essential for each species. This requires a long-term plan to identify suitable sites for new populations and to prepare such sites for future releases,” Talukdar told The Telegraph.