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Rhino population rises, skewed sex ratio a worry .

The Pioneer
New Delhi
5 Apr 2012

The endangered Great Asian one-horned rhino faces heat in their second home in the country in North-Bengal. While the latest rhino census has shown an increase in their population, it has also revealed a skewed sex ratio, much to the concern of the forest department.

The recently concluded census conducted in Gorumara National Park and the adjoining areas has indicated a population of 42 rhinos, seven more than counted in 2010 census. Jaldapara sanctuary has reported 160 rhinos, up 35 from the last census.

“But the population increase is a source of concern for us, considering the skewed sex ratio,” pointed out Bipin Sood, conservator (Wildlife) Northern Circle.

The Gorumara census has pegged the male-female ratio at 7:2. In Jaldapara it may be slightly better with 3:2 male-female ratio but the incidents of territorial in-fighting and straying are also on the rise as in Gorumara.

“The need of the hour is to get some female rhinos from outside. We had sent a proposal to Assam, (that is the first home of these species) requesting them to transfer few female rhinos to us but it did not work out,” said SB Mandal, chief wildlife warden, West-Bengal.

Elaborating on the impact on the disbalanced sex ratio, Sood pointed out that instances of infighting particularly increase during mating season. At least five-six rhinos, including three females, had been killed in the process during the last two years. Further, incidents of straying from the protected areas also make them vulnerable to poaching for their horns used in traditional Asian medicines.

To add to the above there is also a depletion of grasslands. While Gorumara has barely 15 sq kms, Jaldapara can at best boast of 60 sq kms, pointed out Sood.

The Pioneer had earlier reported on how the habitat of the rhinos in North Bengal was being hit hard due to insufficient funds from the Centre.

The sources pointed out that it was high time for the Centre to step in and take steps for rhino conservation. After all if crores of rupees are being spent to get cheetahs from as far as Namibia and South Africa, a handful of female rhinos can be transferred from Assam or from the neighbouring country of Nepal that too has a flourishing rhino population in Asia.

After the flood plains of Brahmaputra in Assam, the riverbeds of Torsha, Malangi and Murti in North Bengal are the only surviving habitats of these species in the country, which need to be revived, they added.