Manas National Park, which had no rhino in late 2005, now has a rhino population of 48.
Due to massive poaching amid conflicts and socio-political unrest from the late 1980s till early 2000s, the rhino population in Manas National Park, which had a population of 85-100 rhinos, turned to zero.
As part of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020), the Assam government decided to reintroduce rhinos in 2005.
The first rhino was reintroduced in Manas National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 2006 and it was brought from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) near Kaziranga National Park, said a media report.
But the first wild-to-wild translocation of rhinos was done in 2008 when two adult males were successfully translocated from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to the Manas National Park.
The Rhino Task Force designed the IRV2020 programme in 2005 with a target to attain a population of 3000 rhinos over seven of the protected areas (PAs) by 2020.
The report quoted Manas Tiger Reserve field director Amal Sarmah as saying: “The recovery is one of the biggest achievements as there was not a single casualty in the translocation.”
“The current rhino population in Manas is 48 in the core area of 500 square kilometer of the park and there has been no case of poaching as well in the past four and half years. Before 2016, 10 rhinos were poached,” Sarmah added.
The forest official also said after re-introduction the first case of poaching was reported in Manas National Park in 2012.
“Births in subsequent years were offset by poaching. The IRV2020 partners perform regular monitoring and security assessments and make improvements based on recommendations by both local and worldwide experts. 2018 & 2019 saw a significant decrease in poaching,” he added.
The report quoted Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, CEO of Aaranyak and senior advisor of International Rhino Foundation for Asian Rhinos, as saying: “Rhinos play an important role in the grassland ecosystem and their re-introduction in Manas in the past one and half decades shall enable effective management of grassland habitats which will not only provide space for rhinos but also other grassland dependent species.”
“Salient success of IRV 2020 in past one and half decades include no casualties of rhino during capture or during release that reverberates that IRV 2020 also provided opportunities to build local skills and expertise in rhino capture and release,” he added.
Under IRV 2020, from 2008 till April 13, 2021, a total of 22 rhinos were translocated from Pobitora and Kaziranga and released in Manas.
From 2005 to mid-April, 2021, about 20 hand-reared rhinos, which were rescued during the Kaziranga floods, were also released in Manas.