Washington, April 24 : Conservation efforts for the Indian Rhino are back on track, with two male rhinos taken back to a national park in Assam's Himalayan foothills last week.
Under the guidance of expert veterinarians, conservationists and forest department officials, the two animals were captured and transported using darting tranquilizers and especially designed crates that could withstand the 1.5 to 2 tonnes of body mass of these large pachyderms.
According to a WWF (Worldwide fund for Nature) report, the return was an emotional moment for local residents, who lost their last rhinos a decade ago during a 20 year period of civil disturbance that wrecked infrastructure in the famed Manas National Park and allowed poachers free reign.
It was an important moment for translocation organizers from WWF India and the government of the State of Assam as well, who saw the successful translocation as a successful launch to Indian Rhino Vision 2020.
Under Indian Rhino Vision 2020, the government plans to give India a population of 3000 rhinos, spread over seven Assam protected areas by 2020.
"It was not merely a shifting of some rhinos into a place where rhinos once existed, we were bringing back the lost glory of this world heritage site, which the local people were once proud of," said Sujoy Banerjee, WWF India's Director of Species Conservation.
From a low point in 1905, when just 10-20 of the greater one-horned rhinoceroses survived, the long struggle by Indian conservationists to save rhino habitat and deter poachers has seen the population grow to 1800 individuals - nearly all in Assam and most (86 per cent) within the confines of Kaziranga National Park.
Nearby, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary had accumulated the world's highest density of rhinos, over 80 Rhinos in less than 18 sq. km of rhino habitat.
Translocation is also at the core of the IRV 2020 strategy.
"It may be risky to do the translocation but it will be riskier not to do anything," said Tariq Aziz, Associate Director with WWF-India's Species Programme. "These national treasures are at risk if an outbreak of disease or other calamity hits Kaziranga. The translocations will help rebuild rhino populations in Manas and a few other protected areas in Assam where the rhino population once existed," he added.