The Indian rhinoceros being a large Megaherbavoire helps in seed dispersion, moving large tree seeds from forested areas to grasslands through excreta.
A survey in 2007 tried to answer the question of how many Asian Rhinos was left in the wild. The study performed by the The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that there were close to 2,575 one-horned rhinos in the wild with Nepal, with India being home to 2,200 of them.
After the report was issued the Indian rhino was moved from its current 1986 status of the endangered to vulnerable in 2008.
The habitat of the Indian rhino once extended from Pakistan into northern India and modern-day Myanmar, reaching into Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. However, loss of large tracts of habitat and extensive poaching for its horn, which Traditional Chinese Medicine believes (WRONGLY) to have medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties — led to its extinction in all these countries, except India and Nepal.
By the 1900s, only between 100 and 200 rhinos survived in the wild. From there to its current population of approximately 3,500 it is a remarkable turnaround, according to the International Rhino Foundation.
In India, rhinos can now be found in parts of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. In 2012, more than 91 per cent of Indian rhinos lived in Assam, according to WWF-India data.
Within Assam, rhinos are concentrated within the Kaziranga national park, with a few in the Pobitara wildlife sanctuary. Kaziranga is home to more than 91 per cent of Assam’s rhinos — and more than 80 per cent of India’s count — with a 2015 population census by Kaziranga park authorities revealing 2,401 rhinos within the park.
A rhino horn could fetch as much as $60,000 per pound in the contraband market in 2015, largely in countries such as China and Vietnam, according to a report in The Washington Times.
Although rhino poaching peaked in India in 2013, when 41 of the herbivores were killed, it has declined since, largely because of better policing and protection by the Assam government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), according to Tito Joseph, program manager of the anti-poaching program at the Wildlife Protection Society of India, an NGO.
The first successful attempt to move rhinos out of Assam and re-introduce them into a similar habitat was made in 1984 in Uttar Pradesh’s Dudhwa national park, which has 33 rhinos today.
Rhino Vision 2020 Program (IRV2020), a collaborative effort between various organisations, including the International Rhino Foundation, Assam’s Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, WWF-India, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hope to raise the number of rhinos in Assam to 3,000 by 2020.
“We have already added one area as a rhino-protected area, and it is likely that we will add two more by 2020,” said Amit Sharma, senior coordinator of the rhino conservation program at WWF-India. “The present population trend shows that population growth is healthy, and achieving the target of 3,000 rhinos in the wild is very much possible.”
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