Thursday, December 27, 2012

Indian One-Horned Rhinos to Regain Former Habitat in the Terai

Indian one-horned rhinoceros

It has been recently reported that the Terai Arc, which was once a prime habitat for Indian one-horned rhinos, is transforming into a rehabilitation zone for the species. The declaration of the turning this region into a habitat for rhinos is part of the Rhino Reintroduction Programme in Dudhwa National Park. The main goal of this program is to bring rhinos from outside the national park to investigate inbreeding. The process includes bringing six rhinos from Assam's Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. According to field director Shailesh Prasad, six young rhinos with four females and two males would be introduced. He further added that the state government of Uttar Pradesh is in the final phases of finishing procedural formalities of acquirement. In addition, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has also given its approval and project is slated to begin early next year. The first phase of the program occurred in the mid-1980s, in which six rhinos were reintroduced in Dudhwa National Park from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and the Royal Chitwan National Park. The animals were released inside a 27-square kilometer area in the national park. It has been recently found that male rhino calves born in that area were driven out of the area by a dominant founder male who happened to be their father. However, due to the lack of space to escape mutual conflicts, male rhinos end up going out of the fenced-in area thus prompting the program to propose a second phase: covering an area of ninety square kilometers for the rhinos. Prasad also pointed out that there is a necessary need to introduce some other male rhinos with a different genetic base. He also added that a new area to prevent any infighting among them.
A map showing the historic range (pink) and current range (green) of the Indian rhinoceros.

I'm very happy to see that rhinos are returning to their former habitat in northern India ever since the reintroduction from the mid-1980s. The Terai region of northern India was once their ancestral home 200 years ago. However, threats such as overhunting and habitat destruction had contributed to their demise and prompting reintroduction efforts. Now, those efforts are going to be further implemented in the region allowing the current population to further increase. I believe that animals that were once extinct in some parts of India and thriving in other parts of the country should also be reintroduced the same way. For example, the tiger was once seen throughout the thick forests of East and South Gujarat but decades of hunting and habitat loss pushed it to extinction. Today, the tiger thrives only in the central, northern, northeastern, and southern parts of India where it has continued to thrive. Therefore, I feel it would be useful to reintroduce it back in its former homeland of East and South Gujarat where it once reigned supreme. In addition, the Indian wild dog, the gaur (Indian bison), and the elephant were also once endemic to that region before being eradicated. If these animals are reintroduced back to their former habitats in Gujarat, it would help in revitalizing the state's biodiversity. Elephant numbers in some parts of northern, northeast, and southern India have increased so dramatically, that there have been several cases of human-elephant conflicts. This is why I feel that part of the effort to minimize such conflicts would be to reintroduce some numbers of elephants in South Gujarat, where they once roamed before the nineteenth century. If rhinos in northeast India have managed to increase to sizable populations and be reintroduced in parts of their historic range, so can other animals.

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