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Rhino translocation drive suffers setback

By Staff reporter

GUWAHATI, June 19 � Among the most ambitious projects of the Assam Forest Department, the translocation of rhinos to Manas National Park has suffered a serious setback. Official sources confirmed that the effort has been postponed till November this year, suggesting a further delay in the expensive and time consuming programme.

The first reason for delay, according to well placed officials in the Forest Department, was the late arrival of the tranquilizing drug sourced from South Africa. �It was because of undue complications in the directorate of drugs and narcotics that the order could not be placed in time� it took several months for the drugs to arrive in New Delhi,� a senior official revealed.

The Assam Tribune was also told that the DFO, Assam State Zoo, Narayan Mahanta will be heading for New Delhi to take possession of the drugs and bring them to Assam, where those would have to be stored.

Arrival of the tranquilizers, however, will not help expedite the translocation process, as another factor has come into play. officials point out that translocation, including stages such as capture of animals, their transport and eventual release, is impossible after the onset of the monsoon.

As part of the initiative under the Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020, the rhinos were to be collected from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and transported by trucks to Manas National Park for relocation. However, with the start of the monsoon, access to Pobitora and Manas are difficult for heavy vehicles. Besides, it would be a daunting task to identify suitable animals and tranquilize them for their long journey.

Dr Bibhab Talukdar, Chair of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group, who is well acquainted with the programme, while mentioning that delay would contribute to cost escalation, noted that the effort would still be worthwhile. Unlike on previous occasions, the capture and release of the animals will be on a wild to wild basis, he added.

If things work out as planned, then 18 rhinos will be picked up from Pobitora as part of the translocation. Ideally, those involved in the programme would like males and females to be nearly equal in number. Only young rhinos would be collected from the source area as they have better abilities to adapt to new habitats.

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