Endangered One-Horned Rhinoceros Spotted At Royal Manas National Park In Bhutan
The one-horned rhinoceros was captured multiple times in a camera trap set up for tracking tigers.
By Nirmala Pokhrel | Kuensel
Just as the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) was planning to delist the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, it spotted one on a camera trap in May 2018.
In fact, it was captured multiple times in a camera trap set up for tracking tigers. Officials at the park said that it has been nearly three decades since one of the ‘jewels’ of the park had gone missing since the early 90s.
Sr Park Ranger Dorji Wangchuk said that it was in February 1992 when the record of the last sighting of a rhino in the park was excerpted from the diary of one of the retired foresters.
“No record revealed any sightings thereafter,” he said.
Learn more about the one-horned rhinoceros
The one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also known as the Greater one-horned rhinoceros or Indian rhinoceros, are found exclusively in the North East Indian State of Assam and the Terai region of Nepal.
They once roamed across the entire northern parts of the Indian sub-continent, from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border which include parts of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Being herbivores, the one-horned rhinoceros are fond of aquatic plants, hence they are usually found near water sources.
Ranked as the fourth largest land animal in the world, the one-horned rhinoceros have thick, armour-plate like skin and an adult weighs around 1800 - 3000 kg. Male rhinos can grow to a length of around 3m with a shoulder height of about 1.4–1.8m.
The one-horned rhinoceros is similar to the African rhinoceros in appearance except for the single horn on its head, compared to two horns of its African counterpart.
The horn, made of keratin, typically grows to around 20 cm and weighs up to 3 kg. It is mainly used for the foraging of food such as roots but unfortunately, is also a prized object for poachers.
For the Chinese, the rhino’s horn is believed to have curative properties for fever, rheumatism and gout. Also considered as an aphrodisiac, the horn is a lucrative product which can fetch an exorbitant price in the black market.
These rhinos usually lead a solitary life, but they may also graze and wallow together. Two mature rhinos are found together normally during the mating season, and the calf can accompany its mother for up to 4 years.
Factors which caused the extirpation of the rhinos from its habitat
Today, no more than 2,000 one-horned rhinoceros remain in the wild. The Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India has about 1200 rhinos while the Chitwan National Park in Nepal has about 600.
With joint efforts between Bhutan and India to protect this creature, there may be a few rhinos living along the Indo-Bhutan border in Manas.
Historic and present distribution of the one horned rhinoceros.
Dorji Wangchuk added that human predation and poaching are solely responsible for the extirpation of rhinos from their habitats in the park and the surrounding areas.
“The reappearance of the one-horned rhinoceros in its habitat is a welcome news for the people of Bhutan,” he said.
The one-horned rhino is listed as a vulnerable species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red list.
Constructive steps taken to protect the one-horned rhinoceros
To protect the vulnerable species, the Royal Manas National Park, through commitment and support will continue to implement various measures.
Royal Manas National Park
Source: Druk Asia
One of which is smart patrolling and synchronised patrolling along the border with the Indian counterpart.
Other measures undertaken regularly include the habitat management of grass, saltlick and waterholes.
Dorji Wangchuk said that at the moment the park is prioritising events and activities that educate people against poaching.
The RMNP expects to spot the rhino in camera again when the annual (winter) camera-trapping programme is set up next month.
This article first appeared in kuensel and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.