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PIX: World's Rhinos could soon be gone, gone forever

Last updated on: May 13, 2013 13:00 IST
A black rhinoceros grazes in a private game reserve 300km (186 miles) north of Durban

A recent report warns that the world's rhinos could vanish in the next two decades if rampant poaching isn't curbed. Rajat Ghai lists the challenges facing the iconic animal.

A creature of myth and wonder

The rhino is the second-largest land animal after the elephant

Weighs 3,000 kg and has a body sheathed with plates of 'armour'

Has a 'horn' on its nose. The horn is actually keratin, the matter from which nails, hair and hooves are formed. The horn on its nose gave the rhino its name - 'rhino' (nose) and 'keros' (horn).

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PIX: World's Rhinos could soon be gone, gone forever

Last updated on: May 13, 2013 13:00 IST
Tanda, a white rhinoceros, grazes with her one-day old calf at the Ramat Gan safari near Tel Aviv

The five clans

Africa has two species. The continent (mostly Sub-Saharan region) is home to the White Rhino and the Black Rhino

Asia is home to the Indian Rhino, found in India and Nepal

The Javan and Sumatran species are found on the islands of Java, Sumatra (both in Indonesia) and Borneo (divided between Malaysia and Indonesia

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PIX: World's Rhinos could soon be gone, gone forever

Last updated on: May 13, 2013 13:00 IST
A one-horned Indian rhinoceros walks in the floodwaters of Kaziranga National Park in the northeastern state of Assam

Roaming grounds in India

Historical range: from Peshawar Valley to Upper Assam. The Baburnama famously records Emperor Babur hunting rhino in the Punjab plains

It features on the Rs 10 note along with tiger and elephant

The rhino is Assam's state animal

"Kaziranga Sanctuary has 2,300 rhinos, Manas has 20, Pobitra has 80, while Orang has 60. In Bengal, Jaldapara and Gorumara sanctuaries have 20-30 rhinos each, while in UP, Dudhwa has 50," says Rathin Barman, rhino specialist from Kaziranga Sanctuary.

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PIX: World's Rhinos could soon be gone, gone forever

Last updated on: May 13, 2013 13:00 IST
An Indian Rhinoceros lies dead with its horn missing at Kaziranga National Park

Under threat

"Last year, we lost 16 rhinos. This year, we have already lost 13," informs N K Vasu, director, Kaziranga Sanctuary

1,997 rhinos were killed by poachers in Africa in six years from 2006-2012. In South Africa alone, between January and March this year, 249 have been poached

"Nepal, which has rhinos in Chitwan and Bardia national parks, lost many of them in the civil war (1996-2006). Bardia lost 80 per cent while Chitwan lost 15 per cent of its rhinos," says Bibhab Talukdar, Chairman, Asian Rhinos Specialist Group

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the rhino horn can cure anything from hangovers to cancer. Also in demand in Vietnam for similar purposes

Rhino horns sought after in the Arab world, especially Yemen, where they are used to make hilts of the 'Janbiya', the traditional dagger

Each species also has localised problems. "The Indian rhino in India is concentrated in one place, Kaziranga, which has 2,300 rhinos. An epidemic can wipe them out. Also, there are no buffers in the parks that house rhinos," says Barman

"The Javan rhinos now number just 35-45 individuals found only in Ujungkulom National Park, West Java. Their habitat has seen intrusion from invasive plant species like 'arengapam', which can block sunlight and inhibit growth of specific plants which the rhinos feed on. Some of the Javans also fell prey to an anthrax epidemic in 2000," says Talukdar. "The forests in which the Sumatran lives are being converted to palm oil plantations, fragmenting the habitat," he notes.

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PIX: World's Rhinos could soon be gone, gone forever

Last updated on: May 13, 2013 13:00 IST
A one-horned Indian rhinoceros walks in Kaziranga National Park in the northeastern state of Assam

Survival odds

"Though we get funds from the government, the rhino is still nowhere near the tiger as far as funds, energy and resources are concerned," says Barman

"There should be complete coordination between security agencies to collect intelligence about would-be offenders and apprehend them. The CBI is also doing its bit. It is investigating three poaching cases currently," says Vasu

Put pressure on China, demands Barman. "The international community, led by India, should isolate China on this issue. Our prime minister must raise this issue whenever he meets Chinese leaders. One also wishes that the Chinese government introduces conservation issues in the school syllabi. Once ignorance goes, the killing will stop too."

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Last updated on: May 13, 2013 13:00 IST

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