GUWAHATI, April 4 - Seeking to put a lid on the criticism expressed on the �paltry� rise in the number of rhinos in the State, Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma today pointed at the large number of deaths between the last census and the one done this year. She claimed that their breeding has been encouraging.
�Since the last census, around 359 rhinos had died in Kaziranga National Park, both due to natural causes and poaching. If we take this into account and add to this year�s count of 2,413, the total number would be 2,772. In the 2015 census the population was 2,401..so I feel the growth is encouraging,� Brahma told a press conference here.
The Minister, however, admitted that a fresh estimation would be done next year with advanced techniques, as this year the exercise was not precise due to existence of tall grasses and construction of highlands.
�We could not burn the dense grass completely due to inclement weather. We should have burnt at least 60-70 per cent of the grass for the census, but only around 30 per cent was possible. So I feel some animals might have gone unspotted. We will conduct the exercise again next year. We feel the number would be much higher,� she said.
The Minister also expressed doubts over the estimation carried at Orang in 2012. At Orang, the number of rhinos according to the recent census is 101, just one higher than the count in 2012.
�You see the trend at Orang. In 2006, the number was 68, in 2009 it was 64 and then in 2012, it suddenly shot up to 100. Is this jump possible? I have doubts on the 2012 census at Orang,� she said, but was non-committal on a probe saying �it is not possible to re-check after so many years.�
The total rhino count in the four national parks is 2650, according to the recent census, with Pobitora having 102 and Manas 34 rhinos respectively.
The Minister claimed that the male-female ratio of 1:1.2 and mother-infant ratio of 1:0.49 at Kaziranga is very encouraging.