WILDLIFE: Assam tips for rhino shift

WILDLIFE: Assam tips for rhino shift – ripe target for poachers ?!!

Rhino relocation - poachers' location area also identified ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, July 13: The forest department has sent one of its officers to Kaziranga to exchange notes on rhino translocation after an animal strayed out of Gorumara last year.

Efforts are on to cage the rhino that is now in the Baikunthapur forest, 40km from Gorumara National Park. Since the foresters have failed to drive it back with the help of kunkis or pet elephants, tranquillising-caging-shifting seems to be the only option.

Sumita Ghatak, the divisional forest officer of wildlife-II, has been sent to Kaziranga in Assam as the national park has experiences on rhino translocation.

This is the first time in north Bengal that a rhino will be shifted from one forest to another in a cage after being tranquillised.

The animal, Kan Hela, had strayed out of Gorumara in November and since then had been spotted in the forests of Belakoba, Ambari and Odlabari. It was last spotted in Baikunthapur, which is not a rhino habitat.

The animal might face a shortage of food, and devoid of company, may stray again and become a victim of poaching, foresters fear.

But while carnivores can can be caged easily, it is difficult to catch herbivores which cannot be lured with baits.

More importantly in Bengal, translocation of rhinos has seldom taken place.

A 3×2 metre cage is almost ready and so are Sambhu and Tarzan, two kunkis of Jaldapara Wildlife sanctuary that have been kept on standby. The operation can be conducted anytime now.

Atanu Raha, the principal chief conservator of forests of Bengal, said over the phone: “Rarely has such an operation been done in our state. So I have sent DFO wildlife-II to discuss the translocation with the officials in Assam, where it has been done several times. For a successful operation, we need to know the experiences of forest officials in Assam.”

According to a forest source, there is currently a shortage of Immobilon that is essential for tranquillising animals. The Assam foresters will be able to tell their Bengal counterparts about substitutes of Immobilon that can be used on the rhino.

Animesh Bose, the co-ordinator of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, said: “The animal should be shifted immediately before it becomes a target of poachers. The forest department should talk to experts before translocating it.”

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