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Floods, not poachers, proved deadlier for Assam rhinos this year

Hindustan Times
22 Sep 2017

Assam witnessed its worst floods in over three decades this year, which not only claimed 160 human lives but also led to the deaths of hundreds of wildlife in the state’s protected forests.

While floodwaters killed 31 one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga national park this year, only two deaths were reported due to poaching, the park’s director, Satyendra Singh, said.

Last year too, the park — spread across 430 sq km — saw 32 rhino deaths due to flooding compared to 18 deaths due to poaching.

National parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Assam have the largest number of rhinos in Asia. While Kaziranga has 2,401, Orang and Pobitora have about 100 each and Manas accounts for 30.

Conservation efforts over the past years have resulted in a steady rise in the number of the endangered specie from 1,552 in 1999 to 2,401 in 2015 at Kaziranga. At the same time, deaths due to floods have also increased. Between 2002 and 2017, 130 rhinos died due to floods.

While deaths due to floods have been more in focus in the past two years, poaching continues to remain a big problem in the state. In the 10 years between 2005 and 2015, 127 rhinos were killed by poachers in Assam.

However, all is not lost. Jamuna, a female rhino who was translocated to Manas national park from Kaziranga, gave birth to her second calf earlier this month.

Rhino population in Manas had become almost nil after poachers connected to Bodo terror outfits killed nearly 100 animals in the 1980s and 1990s.

Translocation of rhinos to Manas from other parks in Assam was initiated in 2008 under the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) project. According to the 2015 census, Manas had 30 rhinos but since 2011, 10 of them were killed by poachers.