Rhinos to be re-introduced in Uttarakhand

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Context: Recently, the Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board has cleared a proposal by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to introduce rhinoceroses in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR).Around 10 rhinos will be brought in CTR in the first phase and 10 more would be added subsequently. A proposal will be sent to the Center for transporting rhinos from either Assam or West Bengal or both.

Relevance:
Prelims:Current events of national and international importance
Mains: GS III-

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Reason for translocation:

  • Benefits:
    • This has been done to boost tourism and revive the habitats of species that survive on low-height grass.
    • Rhinos reduce the size of elephant grass by eating it which would encourage species thriving on lower-height grass-like- Hog Deer, Cheetal, Sambar and Swamp Deer.
    • Re-introduction into habitats in the historic range would create safety-net populations for the species and also restore their ecological role in these faunally-degraded habitats.
  • Area to be shifted:
    • Geographical terrain and environmental conditions in CTR are suitable for rhinos.
    • Valley habitats bounded on either side by the lower Himalayas (north), Shivalik Hills (south) and the Ramganga Reservoir (east) are the ideal sites.
    • They would act as natural barriers to rhino movement and will minimize man-animal conflict.
    • The rhino’s range, once continuous across the flood plains of the Indus, Ganges and the Brahmaputra, now limited to small fragmented pockets in India and Nepal as a result of anthropogenic pressures and poaching, as per the WWI experts.
  • Rhinos are poached because their horns are considered an aphrodisiac.
  • Every translocated animal would be fitted with a GPS radio-collar for monitoring their ranging patterns, foraging habits, demography, and habitat use.
  • The data will be shared with the Forest Department which would be responsible for the safety of these re-introduced rhinos.

Rhinos:

 

  • There are three species of rhino in Asia
    • Greater one-horned,
    • Javan and
    • Sumatran.
  • Status:
    • Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered 
    • The Greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino is vulnerable In IUCN Red List.
  • Habitat:
    • They are spread across India, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and Malaysia. These countries are also known as Asian Rhino Range Countries.
    • Only the Great one-horned rhino is found in India.
    • At present, there are about 2,600 Indian rhinos in India, with more than 90% of the population concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.
    • In India rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Orang, Pobitara, Jaldapara, Dudhwa park.

Conservation Challenges:

  • For years, rhinos have been widely slaughtered for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines.
  • Destruction of their habitat over the years, has brought the rhinos to the brink of extinction. These animals are among the worlds’ most endangered species.
  • The great one-horned rhino could once be found from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  • Once found across the entire northern part of the Indian sub-continent, rhino populations were severely depleted as they were hunted for sport and killed as agricultural pests. This pushed the species very close to extinction in the early 20th century and by 1975 there were only 600 individuals surviving in the wild.
  • By the turn of the century, this species had vanished from much of its range.

National Rhino Conservation Strategy:

  • It calls for active engagement between India and Nepal to conserve the Greater one-horned rhinoceros.
  • The plan said the single population of rhinos in Sukla-Phanta (Nepal), Valmiki Tiger Reserve (India) and Chitwan National Park (Nepal) and Dudhwa (India) is separated by the political boundary between the two countries.
  • It asks for the management of the two populations under the same protocol, instead of managing the two populations separately.
  • The plan calls for expanding distribution range as the occurrence of 90% of the rhino in one protected area is a cause of concern and conservation of existing and potential rhino habitats need to be made a national priority.

Indian Rhino Vision 2020:

  • Launched in 2005, Indian Rhino Vision 2020 is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
  • Seven protected areas are Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang National Park, Manas National Park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary, and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.
  • It is a collaborative effort between various organizations, including the International Rhino Foundation, Assam’s Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, World Wide Fund – India, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wildlife Institute of India:

  • It is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • It was established in 1982.
  • It is based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
  • It offers training programs, academic courses, and advisory in wildlife research and management.

 

Corbett Tiger Reserve:

  • It is located in Nainital district of Uttarakhand.
  • The Project Tiger was launched in 1973 in Corbett National Park, which is part of Corbett Tiger Reserve.
  • Ramganga, Sonanadi, Mandal, Palain, and Kosi are the major rivers flowing through the Corbett National Park.
  • There are 50 Tiger Reserves in India as of August 2019.



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