Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Advanced Genetic Tools Used for West Bengal's Rhino Census

Indian one-horned rhino

It has been recently reported that newly-advanced genetic tools have been used for the first time to carry out a census of Indian rhinos in West Bengal's Gorumara National Park. The census was conducted a biodiversity conservation organization called Aaranyak, and identified 43 rhinos through genetic analysis of dung samples. In addition to that, the study confirmed the sex ratio of 4:1 (male: female) similar to what was found earlier. Udayan Borthakur, the head of the organization's Wildlife Genetics Program, stated that this ratio showing a greater number of males has been "a matter of concern for the authorities." This project was conducted with the permission and support from the West Bengal Forest Department to which Aaranyak had submitted a report advocating further genetic study on rhinos in Gorumara National Park, as well as in the nearby Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. Borthakur, who is also a member of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, called attention to the low genetic diversity of Gorumara's rhino population, which commands management intervention to guarantee long term survival. He also added that Aaranyak would discuss the census report with the forest department and engage in further work in both Gorumara and Jaldapara to answer some questions concerning the "management" of rhinos. Asian rhino specialist and Aaranyak's secretary-general Bibhab Kumar Talukdar stated that such technological development bears great importance in the conservation and scientific monitoring of rhinos in the future.
Entrance at Gorumara National Park

I'm very much impressed by what these new cutting-edge genetic tools have uncovered regarding West Bengal's rhino population. Aaranyak had earlier provided technical support to estimate the genetic population of Indonesia's Javan and Sumatran rhinos. Now, the organization has implemented the same methods in order to determine the state of the rhino population in India. Based on the data collected, it has been found that Gorumara National Park has a low genetic diversity in its rhino population with four males and one female. This is truly a matter of tremendous concern since it could result in decrease of the current rhino population either by natural death or poaching. This is why it is extremely crucial to revive Gorumara's rhino population through reintroduction efforts from places like Kaziranga National Park, where rhino populations have increased exponentially for many years. In addition to reviving Gorumara's rhino population, the process of reintroduction would also keep Kaziranga's rhino population in balance. Furthermore, I believe these tools should also be put to use in determining the state of South Africa's rhino populations. Increase in the levels of security may have done some good in keeping current rhino numbers safe, but it is also important to have a team of researchers from organizations like Aaranyak to conduct studies in order to determine the genetic diversity of these animals. This way, authorities would get some idea on what they need to do or improve in order to keep rhino populations safe. Overall, authorities around the world should form a joint partnerships with Aaranyak and other conservation groups in an effort to keep populations of endangered species safe.

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