Last rhino dies at sanctuary

Rhino translocation to Burachapori wildlife sanctuary in Sonitpur district of Assam has ended in a disaster with the death of its second rhino today. There are no rhinos at Burachapori wildlife sanctuary now. Two female rhinos, a mother and its calf, were translocated from Kaziranga National Park on March 29 to mark a new beginning in the history of Burachapori wildlife sanctuary. In the early 1980s, the sanctuary had more than 70 rhinos. The population gradually decreased through natural deaths and poaching, especially during the civil unrest from 1980-1991, until it dwindled to zero in 1991.

The 35-year-old mother rhino died of lung infection on May 22 and the three-year-old calf died today Sources said the calf was suffering from multiple problems like anaemia, increased parasite count in the intestines and others. "The problems began from October 22 and its condition was fluctuating from then on. Medicines were given but the rhino did not react to the treatment," an official said. Blood tests revealed that there was a high parasite count in the intestines and this made the animal weak, leading to low haemoglobin count and death. "The animal was in a critical condition and it could not be shifted to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation," he added.

A WWF official said the death of the two rhinos has been a big setback to rhino translocation and a lot of thinking would be required to start afresh and more attention has to be given to disease management. "We translocated rhinos to Manas as well but there were no deaths due to disease. This problem is being encountered in Burachapori. Attention will have to be given to disease management," the official said. The translocation programme is being done under the aegis of the Indian Rhino Vision, 2020, which is a joint programme of the state forest department, WWF and the International Rhino Foundation. The programme aims to attain a population of 3,000 wild rhinos in Assam, spread over seven of its protected areas by 2020.

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