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Burachapori back as rhino home after 25 years

Guwahati, March 29: A female rhino and her calf will call Burachapori wildlife sanctuary their home from tomorrow, after nearly 25 years.

Official sources said two female rhinos, aged 15 and 2, were captured from the Bagori range of Kaziranga National Park this morning for the translocation.

"The capture was smooth and the process was over in half-an-hour," an official involved in the operation said.

In the early 1980s, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary in Sonitpur district 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 capture was carried out by senior veterinarians from the College of Veterinary Sciences, supported by a team of veterinary experts.

The entire operation was carried out by a small team of experienced persons from the state forest department, Wildlife Trust of India, World Wildlife Fund and a few others.

"The rhinos were transported immediately to the new destination but could not be released in the sanctuary owing to some technical problem. As it was almost evening, it was not a proper time for release. They will be released tomorrow morning," a senior forest department official said.

The distance between Kaziranga and Burachapori wildlife sanctuary is nearly 70km. "We started at 10.45am and reached at 2.30pm," the official said.

"Necessary habitat and security improvement work have been carried out in the last two to three years and a rhino housing site covering an area of 1.5 square km has been made ready at Burachapori for releasing the rhinos and help them adapt to the new habitat before allowing them to range freely in the wild," a forest department 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.

The translocation programme has been a success in Manas with the rhino population there now at 32. The next destination is the Laokhowa-Burachapori wildlife sanctuary.

The official said as the rhinos were captured around 8 this morning, a decision was taken to transport them to the new destination immediately with a plan to release the rhinos today.

"We are taking care to see there is no problem with the rhinos as they are going to a new destination where there have been no rhinos for quite a long time," the official said.

Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary is spread over 70.01 square km in Nagaon district and Burhachapori wildlife sanctuary over 44.06 square km in Sonitpur district. The Laokhowa-Burhachapori area plays a critical role as a corridor for rhinos between Kaziranga and Rajiv Gandhi Orang national parks.

The conservation breeding specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its population viability analysis report stated there should not be any problem in translocating 10 rhinos from Kaziranga as it will maintain a positive population growth rate as long as no more than 30 to 40 animals are removed each year.#

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