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Baby rhino brings new hope to India’s Manas National Park

A baby rhino spotted alongside its mother in Manas National Park, located in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is an encouraging new sign that the rhino population in the protected area is on the upswing. The mother, named Jamuna, was rescued as a calf from Kaziranga National Park, located about 200 miles east of Manas and raised at the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, a facility that cares for injured or orphaned wild animals run by Wildlife Trust of India/International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Assam Forest Department. She was moved to the Manas in 2008 as part of the country’s rhino conservation efforts.

The calf is her second since 2013—a positive indication that despite concerns due to poaching of mature males, rhinos in Manas are reproducing.

“This birth is significant, and shows so much promise for this population of rhinos in Assam,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, senior program officer with WWF’s wildlife conservation team. “Greater one-horned rhinos are one of Asia’s great conservation success stories, and each new calf adds to the upward trajectory of a rhino population that was once down to about 200 individuals at the turn of the 20th century.”

There are now approximately 3,500 greater one-horned rhinos in both India and Nepal where they are found, and it is the only large mammal in Asia to be downlisted from endangered to vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

In addition to protecting rhinos and their habitat, translocation, which includes moving rhinos from parks with significant populations to others that historically held rhinos but currently do not, is a conservation tactic that has worked well for greater one-horned rhinos. It helps establish viable populations in multiple locations, enables increased genetic diversity, and gives rhinos access to the resources they need to breed.

WWF has been working with India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the government of Assam, and the International Rhino Foundation to reintroduce rhinos to Manas and establish a breeding population through a program called Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020). So far, 18 rhinos have been translocated and there have been 15 new births. There are currently 29 rhinos in Manas, with plans to move 10 additional rhinos in the next few years.   

“Manas National Park is the first location to which greater one-horned rhinos were translocated as part of the IRV2020 program, and despite conservation challenges over the years, the population is growing,” Jayasinghe said. “As we continue our work to increase populations and further their conservation, we are excited to pause to celebrate this calf’s arrival.”