GUWAHATI, May 17 � First it was official incompetence, now it is the weather. The already delayed rhino translocation programme could be further affected by frequent rains in the areas where the animals are located and their proposed destination in Manas National Park.
A senior official of the Forest Department told The Assam Tribune that the project is long delayed and cost-over runs are expected. �The exercise that is to be carried out involved substantial costs spread over a long period. It is natural that expenses would increase with interruptions.�
Conservation workers also agree that the weather would have to be conducive for the complex translocation process to begin. They say that collecting the animals and transporting them over a great distance in a stress-free environment can only be done when there are no rains.
What is equally a matter of concern is that the population of rhinos in the source areas is increasing which has put pressure on the habitat. In the source area of Pobitora, recent rhino births have been reported.
The project would incorporate the task of identifying young male and female rhinos, tranquillising them with dart guns and their shifting to enclosures. Subsequently, they would be transported by heavy vehicles to the Manas National Park for release. The effort would include experts from the Forest Department as well as the International Rhino Foundation and WWF.
It may be recalled that initially the delay was due to the difficulty in acquiring the drug needed to tranquillise the rhinos. �The drug Etorphine is produced only in South Africa and while the order was first placed, it was found that the country indent was not there. Therefore, the order could not be processed and with the drugs unavailable, the project had to be put on hold,� a source in the Forest Department admitted.
The target set was 18 rhinos to be shifted from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Manas National Park during this year. The former is home to around 84 rhinos within a 38.8 sq km area, making it the densest habitat of Indian rhinos in the world.