TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The world's stronghold for Indian rhinos—the state of Assam—has seen its population leap by 27 percent since 2006, despite a worsening epidemic of poaching that has also seen 156 rhinos killed during the same period. According to a new white paper, the population of Indian rhinos in Assam hit 2,544 this year up from a nadir of around 200 animals in the early 1900s, as reported by Environmental News Network.
Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis), like their African relatives, are facing a recent upsurge in poaching for their horn, which is ground up and consumed as a curative in East Asia. Even as there is no evidence that rhino horn has any medicinal benefits, some people in countries like Vietnam and China view consuming illegal rhino horn as a status symbol.
This year, 18 rhinos have been killed in Assam by poachers, but the government has defended its actions in combatting rhino poaching.
"We have been taking steps to stop the poaching. When our government came to power in Assam there was lack of manpower in Kaziranga [National Park]. We have increased the manpower strength to 1,200 inside the park," Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain. "We have also amended the Wildlife Protection Act so that the jail term of the poachers can be enhanced. We have also empowered the forest personnel to use arms to fight the poachers."
Indian rhinos, also known as greater one-horned rhinos, are the world's largest rhino species and the fifth biggest land animal. Although found in Nepal as well, the vast majority are in India and specifically in Assam's Kaziranga National Park, which is home to over 60 percent of the population.
ENN | MONGABAY.COM | JH