Rare one-horned rhinos that roam Kaziranga National Park in north-eastern India have been increasing in number, thanks to stronger police efforts against poaching and artificial mud platforms that keep the animals safe from floods.
Those successful conservation efforts helped raise the park’s rhino population by 200 in the past four years, park census figures showed.
Nearly 400 men using 50 domesticated elephants and drones scanned the park’s 190 square mile territory in March and found the rhinos’ numbers increased more than 12% – neutralising a severe threat to the animals from poachers and monsoon flooding.
Park director Jatindra Sarma said: “From the last count in 2018, the number of the rare one-horned rhinoceros at our park has risen by 200. The number of this species at the Kaziranga now stands at 2,613.”
S Gogoi, a wildlife official, said: “Poaching has declined in recent years with only one rhino being killed so far this year.”
Poachers kill rhinoceroses to take their horns – which are believed to have aphrodisiac properties and are in great demand in the clandestine markets in south-east Asia.
Monsoon flooding has also killed animals of several species in Kaziranga, which is spread across the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River in Assam state.
Authorities have built high mud platforms where rhinos take refuge with guards providing them fodder to survive during the monsoon season.
A police task force inducted last year is armed with weapons as sophisticated as those carried by the poachers, too, said GP Singh, a top police officer heading the force.
Wildlife rangers and security guards carried outdated guns while protecting the park in the past.
Poaching in Kaziranga peaked in 2013 and 2014 with 27 rhinos killed each year. It came down to six in 2017, seven in 2018, three in 2019, two in 2020 and one in 2021.
Kaziranga, more than a century old and a Unesco heritage site, is also a breeding ground for elephants, wild water buffalo and swamp deer, and conservation efforts have also helped increase its tiger population.