The rhino has always been in the focus of wildlife conservation efforts in Assam and Rhino Research and Conservation Initiative (RRCI) was launched in 1994 to address the conservation challenges the greater one horned rhino is facing to secure the future of rhinos in Assam with wide range of initiatives. The conservation of Rhinoceros unicornis in its range countries, specifically India and Nepal has become a real challenge in recent decades as the habitat the species occupy has been facing socio-political and insurgent induced unrest. Assam harbours about 70 percent of the wild Indian Rhino population of the world while Nepal shelters about 25 percent while North Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in India shelters the rest 5 percent of the population. The conservation initiative of rhino in Assam is over 100 years old and that has become the epitome of conservation movement in Assam.
Currently Kaziranga NP is having 2401 rhinos, Rajiv Gandhi Orang NP is having 100 rhinos and Pabitora WLS is having 93 rhinos as estimated by Forest Department OF Assam. The Manas National Park in Assam is having about 30 rhinos at present.
One of the salient projects that Aaranyak has taken in association with the UK based The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is to assist Rhino bearing areas in Assam to strengthen rhino conservation in the field sites. Over 300 wireless equipments were sponsored over the years to enhance wireless communication network within the rhino bearing areas in Assam including Kaziranga NP and Orang NP. It has also provided two well-equipped anti-poaching boats to Kaziranga NP, vehicles, motor-cycles to the forest department in order to gear up rhino protection measures. Two anti-poaching floating boat camps were sponsored by Aaranyak and The DSWF to enhance vigilance in river Brahmaputra along the northern part of Kaziranga NP. The first boat camp was funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund while the second boat camp was funded by David Back representing London Property Industry through DSWF and Aaranyak.
Further a study was conducted using geo-spatial technology around Pabitora WLS to find out the straying pattern of the rhinos from Pabitora WLS to surrounding areas where these straying rhinos are more susceptive to poaching. Accordingly a map was produced depicting the rhino straying around Pabitora WLS along with area of such straying to encourage forest department to set up anti-poaching forest camps, both permanent and temporary around Pabitora to secure the future of the straying rhinos.
Aaranyak and the DSWF with support received from European Association of Zoo and Aquarium (EAZA) and Save the Rhino International provided wireless equipments and rain coats to anti-poaching forest staffs of Pabitora WLS in Assam which happens to be the site of highest density of Indian rhino.
To monitor the straying rhinos outside the rhino bearing areas, Aaranyak in association with the Asian Rhino Project supported by Taronga Foundation has put into service two motor bikes for regular monitoring of strayed rhino to ensure that the rhinos get back to the protected areas without being harmed by poachers.
The Rhino Research and Conservation Initiative in collaboration with the Geo-Spatial Technology and Application Programme is doing details mapping of rhino habitats in Assam and changes taking place in rhino habitats due to various natural and man-induced factors. A publication entitled "Indian Rhinos in Protected Areas of Assam - A geo-spatial documentation of habitat changes and threats" was published by Aaranyak in 2007.
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