Great news for animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts! 2,413 one-horned rhinos have been counted, an increase of 12 from the census count of 2,401 in 2015, at Kaziranga National Park in India. Although it’s a very small change, it still is a ray of hope for the endangered animal.
Kaziranga National Park in the Assam state of India is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Two-third of the world’s population of rhinos live there. There are only five species of rhinos in the whole world which are disappearing fast. When it comes to poaching, rhinos steal the top spot. Hunted and brutally killed for their horn(which is made up of their hair, 100% keratin, no bone), rhinos are on the verge of extinction. The horn is known to be worth more than gold in black markets around the globe. It is known to be used therapeutically as Chinese medicine, kept as a status symbol and rumored to cure male impotence.
Only a few hundred rhinos remained in the wild in 1970. Since then, the authorities have gone strictly in order to save them from extinction. In Kaziranga National Park along with Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Manas National Park both located nearby, the rhino census is regularly carried out every three years. Forest officials board on elephant backs to spot rhinos. More than 40 elephants and 17 SUVs were used for the census.
Riding elephants for rhino census sparked some controversy and for the right reasons. The elephants are tortured and tamed using chains and shackles. And the fact that the Indian government has granted the forest guards the power that provides them immunity from protection against prosecution if they kill poachers at the park, is still debated among activists. On March 21, a group of RTI activists in the state accused forest department of bragging the numbers to meet the ‘Rhino Vision 2020’ and to calm the public anger rising against poaching.
Among all the controversies, there’s still a hope for the rhinos. Recently, the population is not decreasing and most of the rhinos died of natural causes. The poaching is under control on many levels. Let’s hope this trend carries on and the great rhinos proudly keep the horns on their head.
Image Credit: https://rhinos.org/species/greater-one-horned-rhino/