By Dominick Mezzapesa
In rare "Rhino good news" the greater one-horned rhinoceros have increased their population, so the endangered animals will be getting two new areas to call home in Northern West Bengal, India.
Right now all of the 250 rhinos in West Bengal can be found in just two parks – Jaldapara and Gorumara National Parks – in the northern part of the state. Jaldapara is home to nearly 200 of these threatened animals, and has the second-highest population of rhinos in India. Gorumara, located about 60 miles away from Jaldapara, hosts some 50 rhinos.
Officials said that the rhino numbers in the two parks have increased beyond those parks’ capacity, and some individuals need to be shifted to newer areas to ease the pressure.
In October, West Bengal Forest Minister Binay Krishna Barman announced that the state forest department has identified two new areas for the “excess” rhinos in northern West Bengal: Buxa Tiger Reserve and a small reserve in Patlakhawa in Cooch Behar.
“We have more than 255 rhinos in Jaldapara and Gorumara,” forest minister Barman told the Times of India. “The number is more than the carrying capacity of both parks. Hence, we are planning to relocate a few rhinos.”
Once widespread, the greater one-horned rhinoceros have disappeared from much of its range, largely due to poaching for its horns and destruction of its habitat. About 3,500 greater one-horned rhinos are estimated to remain in India and Nepal today, with India hosts around 2,500 of these animals. But the rhino populations are concentrated in just a few protected areas.
While the increasing rhino population is great news, it comes with a warning. As the herd grows, poachers are becoming a greater threat to the Rhinos. Over the past 18 months, at least 11 rhinos have been killed in northern West Bengal, according to local media.
But incidents of poaching should not deter a rhino range expansion program, Sharma said. “You always have to think positive and take the best possible measures to try and secure a better future for the species.”