Manas National Park gets back its rhinos

Manas National Park has received its first greater one horned rhinos seven years after it was was wiped out by poachers. On February 24, the director of Manas, a world heritage site, released the fourth rhino, a one-and-half-year-old female, in the Kuribeel area of the Bansbari range. The four rhinos, all orphaned females, rescued by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), its partner the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the Assam forest department, were hand-raised at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) near the Kaziranga National Park. The first three rhinos were transferred to Manas by WTI-IFAW in 2006. "I am delighted to welcome these rhinos to the Manas. I am sure that this move by WTI-IFAW will be the beginning of the revival of the rhino population in the park. This will be followed by the wild to wild transfer by Indian Rhino Vision 2020 team,' AK Swargiary, director Manas said. "Rhino is the pride of Assam and I am proud that WTI-IFAW has been able to support the Assam forest department in bringing back the first rhinos to this amazing Manas landscape. I hope our effort will be supplemented by others so that Manas regains its lost glory,' Vivek Menon, executive director, WTI said. MNP's last native rhino, a female, was killed by poachers in the Kokilabari beat in 2001 after two decades of ethnic strife, which devastated most of the park and killed eight forest officers. The one and half year old female calf, which was released last week, was rescued from a tea garden next to Kaziranga National Park after its mother was shot dead by poachers in September 2007. It was transported over 300 kilometers to its new home in Manas. "While conducting the post mortem we realised that the mother was lactating and therefore a calf had to be around and we started looking for it,' Dr Anjan Talukdar veterinary officer with WTI-IFAW said. Earlier, the Security Assessment Group of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020, had in its Update Report on Security Assessment in December 2007 said that 80 per cent of the Manas National Park was secure and that it was safe to release the animals there. Home to tigers and elephants it is also a designated Project Tiger reserve. A repository of 22 critically endangered species, Manas was declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1985. On ground conservation action commenced at Manas after the signing of an agreement between the Bodo people and the Government of India in 2003 and the subsequent formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The responsibility for management of the park now rests with the BTC and the Assam forest department. The BTC deputy chief, Khampa Borgoyari, has stated that Manas is an asset and should be managed to protect wildlife. The BTC had earlier strongly recommended the formation of Greater Manas adding the adjacent forest, also called Manas, and the Ripu-Chirang forest, increasing its effective spread to 950 sq kms, up from 300. The BTC's declaration followed a study conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India and its partner, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, supported by the British government, which strongly recommended its creation. "The BTC is proud to add this piece of forest to Manas. It is well aware of its responsibilities for the conservation of forests and wildlife and other natural resources of the region so that our people can enjoy the benefits for much longer. We are striving hard to strike that balance and I am confident that our officers with support of non-governmental organisations will make this happen,' Kampa Borgoyari, deputy chief of the BTC said.