MANGALDAI, March 18 � Much to the delight of nature lovers in the State, the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park in Darrang district recorded a total of 100 rhinos in a census conducted by the State Forest department on March 15. The figure, informed SK Dyla, DFO, Mangaldai Wildlife Division, shows an increase of 36 rhinos in comparison to the count conducted three years back.
According to official sources, the rhino census was conducted in the park under the supervision of Dr SP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Assam. All observers and enumerators for the census came from other divisions and NGOs namely, WWF-India, WTI, Aaranyak, Green Guard Nature Organisation and OTTERS. The whole national park was divided into 17 blocks for the rhino count. Each block was allotted to an enumeration party comprising enumerator, guide, mahout and a departmental elephant. The census began at 5 am simultaneously in all blocks and lasted till noon. All data from each block was compiled and analysed by a team comprising senior Forest officials including the CCF (Wildlife), Assam and representatives of the above NGOs.
After thorough analysis of the data, the rhino population in the national park was worked out to be 100. On the previous day, all enumerators and observers were briefed on the exercise by the CCF (Wildlife) who asked them to conduct the census without any prejudice in mind.
It may be mentioned that in 1991, the rhino population in the park figured at 97 but in 1999, the figure drastically came down to 46 due to serious threats from poachers. In 2006, the figure increased to 68 and in the last census, the figure closed at 64.
Meanwhile, poaching threats in the park continue with three rhinos allegedly falling prey during the last 30 months although official sources claimed it to be one.
On the other hand, water shortage has lately become a matter of serious concern for the rhinos in the park as apart from wetlands in Roumari, Padum Pukhuri and Old Orang areas, all other wetlands in the park have dried up. If the authorities concerned ignores the situation, the the park may suffer from serious water shortage in the near future, observed nature lovers here.