Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Invasive Plant Species Forces Rhinos Outside Orang National Park

One-horned rhinos

The state of Assam in India is home to the famed Kaziranga National Park. This vast stretch of lush and evergreen grasslands make an ideal habitat for the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. There is also another national park which offers the same type of habitat: the Orang National Park. This national park, like Kaziranga, may seem lush and green at first glance but it has a dark secret. The Orang National Park has been under threat by an invasive plant species known as the Mimosa. It was first imported by tea planters from East Asia during the 1960s to be used as a nitrogen fixer prior to planting tea. However, this plant is infamous for colonizing over native plant species by scrambling vigorously over them and forming dense tangled thickets up to two meters high. Due to the impact of this alien species, the alluvial grasslands, which are ideal rhino habitats, had shrunk by 10.09 square kilometers from 1987 to 2008. This has forced Orang's rhinos to stray outside the park, where they risk getting into conflicts with people. Recently, a park ranger named Samir Ahmed was injured after a rhino strayed outside and crossed the Brahmaputra River into Nagaon and Morigaon districts. A study was carried out by Pranjit Kumar Sarma, a GIS expert, who recommended immediate uprooting of the plant for rhino conservation. In addition to that, Mr. Sarma further added that another factor contributing to the fluctuation of rhino habitat is silt deposition from the Brahmaputra. He had called for serious measures to prevent grazing of cattle and encroachment in the park.

This article, in my opinion, very much coincides with the one in which the Chitwan National Park in Nepal is under threat from this plant species. It also gives a clear idea of why it is extremely important to take serious measures in preventing further colonization, in order to conserve the rhino habitat in Orang. And I frankly believe that uprooting is the best solution. However, in order to put this part of plan into action, it would help to reach out to the community, educate them about the dangers of Mimosa, and persuade them to help with the uprooting. If the people do not help out, then they will risk serious injury or even death by rhinos. In order to fix the silt deposition, I feel it is also important to persuade the locals to first prevent their cattle from grazing into the grasslands in order to carry out ground surveys. This way, it will allow wildlife managers to burn grasslands systematically.

View article here

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