WILDLIFE: New rhino home at Rasomati – One-horned inmates to arrive from Jaldapara before pujas – shifting the current heritage to areas decimated by Bengal, no outcry from Gorkha-Adivasi conservationists ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Cooch Behar, June 22: Three Indian one-horned rhinos will make the grassy forests of Rasomati their home before the pujas, making the wetland the third habitat of the animal in the state.
“Following a state wildlife board’s recent decision, we are going to shift two females and a male rhino from Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary to Rasomati before the pujas,” state forest minister Ananta Roy said yesterday. He added that Rs 4 crore had been sanctioned for the project.
The Rasomati wetlands, 18km from here, covers 1,665 hectares. Of them, 650 hectares has been chosen for the rhino habitat. “We have planted the species of grass that the rhinos prefer on 60 hectares and also created a waterbody as the animals like to wallow to keep away parasites from their skin. A canal has been excavated around the proposed habitat and the water-carrying capacity of the huge ox-bow lake in the forest has also been improved,” a senior official said.
According to principal chief conservator of forests Atanu Raha, Rasomati will be the third rhino habitat centre in the state after Jaldapara that has 120 of the animal and Gorumara with 33.
The minister, who laid the foundation stone for the enclosure to house the three rhinos at Rasomati, said the department had begun developing the forest as an attractive tourist spot about seven years ago.
“There is already a 60-metre-tall watchtower, picnic spots and provisions for boating in Rasomati.” Work on the construction of two tourist cottages and a nature interpretation centre is also on.
“The erstwhile princes of Cooch Behar used to hunt in this forest as it was teeming with wildlife. Later on Rasomati came under tremendous pressure from wildlife and timber poachers. However, we have been able to reverse the trend by forest protection schemes and by replanting trees,” Roy said.
Over the past several years Rasomati has again become home to many animals, which had been introduced. The department’s report says that Rasomati houses around 200 spotted deer, 20 leopards and six bison.
According to a forest official, Rasomati with a good forest cover is an ideal habitat for wild animals. “The Chilapata forest is 15km away and animals often walk down the banks of the Torsa to come here in search for food at nights. We have been observing that some of these animals, particularly deer and bison, are not returning to where they came from,” the official said.
Raha said efforts were on to bring rhinos from Kaziranga in Assam. “We are exploring the possibility of introducing fresh genetic stock into the rhino population in north Bengal,” Raha added.
The forest department has also decided to have a gharial and peacock park in Kholta, close to Alipurduar, about 20km from here. “We are also trying to complete these before the pujas,” the minister said.