First calf born to newly established rhino population as poaching threat looms



Posted on 30 September 2012  | 
A female greater-one horned rhino that was relocated from an Indian wildlife sanctuary to a national park as part of a range expansion programme has given birth to a calf. The mother is one of 18 rhinos moved to India’s Manas National Park to establish a new breeding population.

The female calf, identified by monitors last week, is the first offspring to be born to a translocated rhino in Manas. The birth indicates that the new rhinos have adapted well to the environment and are beginning to thrive.

The mother rhino was released into Manas in January when she was about half way through her 15-16 month long gestation period. Her translocation was part of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 project, a partnership between the Indian government, WWF, International Rhino Foundation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The programme is working to increase the population of greater one-horned rhinos in India’s Assam state to 3,000 by 2020 by translocating rhinos to encourage breeding in new locations. Assam accounts for the largest population of greater-one horned, or Indian, rhinoceros in the world.

Although rhino numbers in the state have grown from 2000 in 2005 to over 2700 in 2011, more than 90% of the animals still live in just one place, Kaziranga National Park. Founding new populations encourages more rapid breeding, helps diversify genetics and helps guard the species from disease outbreaks and natural disasters.

WWF is also working to protect rhinos from poaching for their horns. In recent years there has been a dramatic spike in demand for rhino horn in Viet Nam, which has led to record rhino poaching as far away as South Africa.

Just last week, three of Assam’s greater one-horned rhinos were shot and savagely mutilated for their horns. One rhino survived the initial attack but died days later from its painful injuries. At least 17 rhinos have been killed for their horns this year in Assam, and nearly 400 have been poached in South Africa.

WWF and its partner TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, are campaigning for greater protection for species like rhinos, tigers and elephants. The organizations are calling on governments to increase law enforcement, ensure suspected poachers are prosecuted to the full extent of the law and curb the demand for endangered species products.
The rhino at two months old.
© WWF-India / Sande. D Enlarge
WWF and partners have released 18 rhinos into India's Manas National Park.
© WWF India / Dipankar Ghose Enlarge
There are fewer than 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos in the wild, most in one Indian park.
© WWF-Canon / Jeff Foott Enlarge

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