Injured rhino being surrounded by the villagers of Dholadonda village. Image: Northeast Now

Wildlife activists are worried that poachers are probably again on the prowl in Manas National Park “to kill” the newly re-introduced one-horned rhinos.

Sources said a group of poachers had fired at a male rhino recently in Manas National Park.

The injured rhino on Saturday morning strayed out from the core area of the wild habitat and moved towards the west.

On Monday, the rhino was detected at Dholadonda village near Kuklong in Lower Assam’s Chirang district.

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Thousands of villagers assembled around a marshy open land to ensure that the rhino does not get to enter the area of human habitation of the village.

Photos available with Northeast Now showed that the rhino had an injury (suspected to be caused by a bullet) on the right shoulder, and was bleeding.

Forest guards rushed to the spot and tried to push back the rhino to the core area of Manas National Park.

Sources said the injured rhino was probably scared of the poachers, and crossed two rivers – Beki and Hakuwa, to reach Dholadonda village.

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The incident of suspected bullet injury has created a major issue on the security of rhinos and other endangered species in Manas National Park.

Manas National Park was once home to more than 180 rhinos. But the entire population was wiped out during the ethnic unrest between 1988 and 2001.

Rhino with the bullet injury

Later the Assam government, in collaboration with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), re-introduced orphaned rhino calves in Manas National Park between the years 2006 and 2014.

The initiative was supported by a number of organizations, including the US Fish and Wildlife Services, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and WADWT.

The programme aims to increase the population of the greater one-horned rhino by 3000 in new and potential areas throughout Assam by 2020.

As part of IRV-2020 rhino population range expansion strategy, 18 rhinos were translocated from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park to Manas National Park between 2008 and 2012.

For a viable and stable population of a greater one-horned rhino at Manas National Park, it is essential to maintain a minimum of 40 rhinos with a sex ratio of 3:1.

The remaining rhinos required in different phases of the project will be brought from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park.

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