In April 2008, two male greater one-horned rhinos were successfully translocated from Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Manas National Park in Assam — the first time that wild rhinos have been translocated in India!
A UNESCO-designated World Heritage site, Manas National Park is one of the nine biodiversity hotspots in India, and was home to several endangered species, including rhinos, before local political unrest in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to their eradication. Work is underway to restore Manas’ former wildlife populations, with these translocations among the early steps.
To make sure that adequate security was in place before the move, IRF and partners built community support, provided vehicles, wireless sets and other equipment to guards, and helped build watch towers, bridges, and roads. Guards are challenged by the curiosity of the two translocated males, who frequently venture into the park’s fringe areas. One of the two rhinos wandered out of the park in late 2008, and traveled nearly 80 kilometers during the monsoon season before the veterinary team could safely immobilize him and return him to the park. The two-week effort to bring the wandering rhino back to Manas cost nearly $7,000!
We are now building an 8 kilometer long fence along the southern border of the park to prevent the translocated rhinos from moving into unprotected areas where they could be injured or killed.
As with all activities in Manas, local communities are important partners in this effort. Prior to construction, we conducted a number of consultations with local villages to make sure they supported the fence construction, and young people from the area were hired to build the fence.
Three kilometers of fencing has already been erected and is currently being tested. A portion of this fence was damaged by a lone elephant, but was quickly repaired. The remaining 5 kilometers of fencing will be completed by mid-October, in time for the planned translocations of another 18 rhinos to Manas in November/December 2009.