Asian Rhino Projectx

Greater One Horned Rhino Programs India & Nepal

The Greater One Horned Rhinoceros is a conservation success story with the species moving from Endangered to Vulnerable classification in 2008. The population has turned around from approximately 200 individuals in the late 19th century to over3,250 throughout India and Nepal today. This is thanks to strict protection of the species within national parks and park protection. Re-introduction programs have begun and the species is starting to repopulate former habitats where not so long ago they had become extinct from. We cannot afford relax though - poaching is still a major threat to the Indian rhino as is habitat quality. Most of the rhino habitat is surrounded by people and farming. Rhino are known to stray from the safety of the parks and human rhino conflict is often encountered resulting in death or injury from both parties.

Below are projects funded by the ARP through our partners Aaranyak and the International Rhino Foundation including rhino relocation, habitat survey and analysis as well as community outreach and education.

Indian Rhino Vision 2020 Project

The Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 is a partnership among the government of Assam, the International Rhino Foundation, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Bodoland Territorial Council, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that aims to attain a population of 3,000 wild rhinos in seven of Assam's protected areas by the year 2020. Thanks to the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, ARP was able to forward $10,000AUD to this project to contribute to moving the first round of rhinos.

Greater One Horned rhinos (GOHR) are a conservation success story.  The species has recovered from about 200 animals in the early 1990s to more than 2,850 today.  Resembling living armored tanks, the species is a popular zoo animal – about 175 GOHR live in 66 zoos around the world.  As a result of increasing commitment to conservation, zoos and NGOs from Europe, Australia and the United States have joined forces to support the GOHR translocations and have contributed more than half a million dollars to the program over the past three years.

Translocations are the backbone of the IRV 2020 program. More than 85 percent of the world’s Greater one-horned rhino population inhabits Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India.  Having most of the animals in one population puts it at risk from catastrophes such as floods or disease outbreaks, which could lead to a serious population decline.  Pobitora National Park holds about 90 rhinos -- the park’s carrying capacity has been exceeded, which leads to an increased risk of rhino-human conflict as animals move out of the park and into agricultural areas to forage for food.  The goal of Indian Rhino Vision 2020 is to reduce risks to India’s rhino population by ensuring that the animals are spread throughout multiple parks with enough habitat to encourage population growth.

Genetic census of Greater One-horned Rhino in Gorumara National Park, West Bengal, India

Effective management and long term conservation of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) may in future take benefits of a multidisciplinary approach, including the use of molecular tools in genetic monitoring of natural populations. For the first time in the history of Greater One-horned Rhino census, advanced genetic tools have been used in Gorumara National Park of West Bengal, India. As part of a project undertaken by Aaranyak with financial support from Asian Rhino Project, Australia, dung DNA analysis based techniques have been used to determine minimum number of rhinos present in Gorumara and to understand the contemporary extent of genetic diversity in the population.

Gorumara National Park is one of the two rhino bearing protected areas in the state of West Bengal in India. Gorumara is situated in Northern West Bengal and is a part of the Eastern Himalayan submontane Terai belt and falls into the Indomalayan ecozone. The Park with 79.99 km lies in the floodplains of Mukti and Raidak rivers. The major river in the Park is Jaldhaka, a tributary to the Brahmaputra. Gorumara has a known small population size of rhinos (42, according to the census conducted by the Forest Department in the year 2012), with a reported skewed sex ratio with higher number of males that the females. Moreover, According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, in the year 2009, Gorumara is one of the best managed National Parks in the country.

Strengthening conservation measures of Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) in Orang National Park, Assam, India.

ARP is proud to support another  Aaranyak project in Assam. Though the Greater One horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is considered as vulnerable by IUCN it is still in high risk for its survival in Assam because of severe threats from poachers, wildlife trafficking, fragmentation and degradation of its habitat in past couple of decades.  Assam is one of the last strongholds of the GOHR with a total population of2201 as estimated by the Assam Forest Department in the year 2009. Orang National Park, with an area of 78.8 sq. km. is an important rhino bearing area having 64 wild rhinos as estimated by Assam Forest Department in 2009. The rhino population in Orang National Park is fluctuating from 35 rhinos in the year 1972 to 97 rhinos in the year 1991 and which is again reduced to 64 rhinos in the 2009. This fluctuation of rhino population in Orang National Park is mainly due to the severe intesity of poaching in comparison to other rhino bearing areas of Assam. From 1983 to 2009, 122 rhinos were poached in Orang National Park. During the period from 2006 to 2009 approximately 30 rhinos were poached in the park. The major factors attributable to the increased  poaching are lack of awareness among the local stakeholders about the need to conserve rhinos, unscientific monitoring system of rhino and lack of socio-economic database of the fringe villages of the park.

Rhino Conservation: EducationalTool Kit Publishing Project

The Asian Rhino Project has just funded an Educational Tool Kit through PARC/Nepal to the value of $2,500AUD. Below is an excerpt from the project proposal outlining the project which is expected to  be completed by September 2012.

All five species of Rhinoceros including Asian One Horned Greater (Rhinoceros unicornis) are globally threatened fauna whose populations are crisis. Rhinos have been playing a vital role directly and indirectly on ecological balance as well as economic and community development.

The Asian rhino has provided many opportunities in the region i.e. ecosystem, employment, community development and revenue through tourism. Although the rhino has played a vital role not only in ecological balance but also socio-economic development, people and children here know little about the importance of the rhino and their conservation.

Several institutions publish sound information to educate people about the rhinos through their websites and publications, however many local people and children of rural areas do not have access to these websites and publication. Many people are not aware about those organizations so there is huge gap between publishers and real readers / target groups in sharing and gaining rhino conservation message.

Additionally, most publications and websites are written in English but local people prefer their own language. Because of limited information in the local language, local conservationists are also experiencing difficulty conducting rhino conservation education. Teachers do not have enough information in context of rhino conservation. They are unable to teach their students about rhinoceros even though the Asian species is the most important fauna and whose population status is on the verge of extinction in Nepal. It is due to this the Rhino Conservation Tool Kit was developed.

This publication will cover detail information about Rhino in Nepalese language and it will be quite helpful to young children, teachers, conservationists, planners, design makers, rhino lovers etc. When local people / children get the chance to know about rhino and its importance, it obviously generates motivation for contribution and increase participation for conservation.  This tool kit will also work as a guideline for teachers, conservationists and interested parties who want to conduct rhino conservation education programs with the local children and people.

At least 250 kits will be published and widely distributed to schools in the Buffer-zone of the protected areas where rhino are found. Kits will also be provided to concerned organizations, eco-clubs / conservation clubs, Buffer-zone User Committees, Parks, Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Rhino Conservation Tool Kit objectives

  • Document information of ecology, conservation history, lessons learned in context of Rhino conservation
  • Publish an educational tool kit to transfer conservation knowledge to strengthen rhino conservation action

The Rhino Conservation Tool Kit is a 6 month duration project which starts in March to be completed in September 2012.