One-horned rhino no longer endangered

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Guwahati, Oct 24 (UNI) The one-horned rhinos of Assam and Nepal are no longer endangered.

It is now official that the rhinos of the region have improved their condition. They have now been downgraded to 'vulnerable' category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the final authority on conservation.

Besides the rhino, the IUCN has removed humpback whales and African elephants, among others, from its 'Red List' of endangered species, NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said in a statement.

The IUCN observed that these species had shown signs of recovery in the wild, following strict protection measures in range countries.

They are currently placed under the IUCN's 'genuine improvement' list that was decided on October 6 at a meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

In fact complete credit for the elevation goes to the Kaziranga National Park, the epicentre of the most successful conservation programme of wildlife throughout the world.

''Today Kaziranga has more than 1800 rhinos. This is a stupendous number considering the fact in 1925 there were hardly a dozen left,'' said Chief Conservator of Forest Mohan Chandra Malakar.

But not all are happy.

''The rise in rhino poaching over the last two years in Assam's Kaziranga National Park makes the 'demotion' more inexplicable,'' said WTI executive director Vivek Menon.

Rhinos in Kaziranga are now at greater risk, he added.

The main purpose of the IUCN Red List is to catalogue and highlight those plants and animals that are facing a higher risk of extinction.

''The changed status, while welcome, will not affect our working on the ground as we will continue to accord due importance to conservation of rhinos. For us, the rhino is a symbol of prestige and there will be no let up in our efforts on this account,'' Malakar said, adding that the population of rhinos in Assam had already reached 2000. Rhino is the state animal of Assam.

According to the International Rhino Foundation, there are approximately 2,619 greater one-horned rhinos surviving in the world. But hardcore conservationist are not happy.

''This is a hasty decision and has no link with the ground realities. Poaching is still a high threat,'' PC Bhattacharjee, eminent wildlife expert of Assam said.

The recent 32nd World Heritage Committee meeting said in its report that while Kaziranga is probably one of the best managed World Heritage properties, it is faced with increasing pressure as a result of rapid changes in the surrounding landscape.

UNI MT PL SV CS1515

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