Explained |  Are rhino and elephant conservation efforts successful?

Explained | Are rhino and elephant conservation efforts successful?

A one-horned rhino at Kaziranga National Park in Assam on October 10.

A one-horned rhino at Kaziranga National Park in Assam on October 10. | Photo credit: AP

The story so far: Greens around the world called Kaziranga National Park the greatest conservation success story in 2005, when it turned a century old. Much of it is attributed to a rhino protection force shooting suspected poachers on sight; more than 55 gunmen have been killed within the boundaries of the 1,300 km2 tiger reserve for unauthorized entry since 2012-13.

What is the one-horned rhinoceros population?

The one-horned rhino population was around a dozen when Kaziranga became a protected area in 1905. According to the 2022 Rhino Status Report, the number of visually impaired herbivores in Kaziranga is estimated at 2,613, more 65% of its total. population of 4,014 in 11 habitats in India and Nepal. Ten years ago the rhino population on these estates was 2,454. A section of conservationists says there is too much emphasis on the rhino, but agrees it has made other animals on its estates a beneficiary . The number of tigers, for example, has increased in Assam at a higher rate than elsewhere in India. According to a 2010 count, Kaziranga has the highest density of tigers – 32.64 per 100 km2 – in the world.

How have anti-poaching measures helped?

According to Assam-based rhino expert Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, strengthening anti-poaching mechanism in India and Nepal with more manpower, building capacity of frontline staff and equipping rangers with better combat equipment helped protect the rhinoceros. The feelings of local people attached to the rhino have also been a factor in the sharp decline in the number of rhinos killed, from 54 in 2013 and 2014 to one each in 2021 and 2022. The threat from poachers cannot be ruled out due to the trade illegal wildlife in neighboring Myanmar and beyond in Southeast Asia, he said. “While poaching remains a major threat to rhinos, invasive alien plant species that are taking over key grassland habitats in areas where rhinos live over the past decade have become a bigger threat to the animal. in India and Nepal,” said Mr. Talukdar, also a senior member. of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group, said.

Are Asian elephants in danger?

India is home to almost 60% of Asian elephants and the last count of the species in 2017 put the number at 29,964. While the number of elephants in India has increased in recent years, the he species is listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.

What are the challenges?

The largest land mammal is constantly threatened by poaching and conflict with humans. While poaching incidents for ivory have decreased, human-elephant conflict has increased. On average, around 500 humans and 100 elephants are killed each year across the country in such clashes. The elephant population is not evenly distributed in the country. The southern Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are home to almost 44% of India’s elephant population. The fragmentation of elephant habitats and the construction of linear (railways and roads) and electrical infrastructure have led to the death of many elephants. Land use change, particularly the transformation of former forested areas into agricultural land, has exacerbated the conflict. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change launched the Elephant Project in 1992 to ensure the long-term survival of elephants in their natural habitats. The number of elephant reserves in India is 32 with the latest addition being the Agasthyamalai Elephant Reserve in 2022. Elephant corridors and close linear links between habitats that allow elephants to move between secure habitats are crucial for conservation. So far, around 101 elephant corridors have been identified in the country and need to be secured for elephant conservation.

Read also | India’s elephant corridors under threat, study finds

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