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A Comprehensive Database on Rhinos of Assam

A coffee table book, 'Rhino: Pride of Assam', was released by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal last week. Written by Partha Sarathi Mahanta and Jaideep Mazumdar, the book is the third in the series of books on important and celebrated subjects of Assam co-authored by the duo. The writers had earlier released two coffee table books on Kamakhya temple and Majuli River Island.

A coffee table book, the book, 'Rhino: Pride of Assam', is weaved around the character of a rhino and is divided into different chapters. Starting with the evolution of rhinos from the pre-historic times to its present day status, the book offers a comprehensive narrative about the most prized animal of Assam.

Elaborating on the book, Mazumdar said, "We have sought to trace the historical evolution of rhinos through the ages. Earlier, the animal used to be widely disbursed across the world. The rhinos have been mentioned in ancient civilisations like the Indus Valley Civilisation, Greek Civilisation and Mesopotamian civilisation. In the early 19th century, the rhinos were even found never Delhi".

Mahanta added that the rhino is also mentioned in Hindu scriptures as it was associated with Lord Vishnu.

He said that details of all the different habitats of the one-horned rhino have been included in the book. "We have included information of all the habitats of the rhino - three in Nepal, Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Manas National Park, Orang National Park, Baksa, and also Gorumara National Park and Jaldapara National Park of West Bengal."

The book also includes a chapter on why it is important to save the rhino. According to Mazumdar, "People keep talking about the need to save rhinos. We have elaborated the scientific needs for the conversation of rhinos - why it is important from the ecological point of view."

The book also includes a wide range of eclectic photos which provide a visual delight. Mahanta says, ""We had hired our own photographers for the book. But we also used photographs from people who have been working in the field so as to make the book all encompassing."

The writers have also addressed the issue of poaching in the book and the economics of rhino horn smuggling. "Earlier, the main market for rhino horns was China but in recent years, it has shifted to Vietnam. Since rhino horns do not have any lowest price as such, they are priced on two factors - such as waiting capacity of the customers as also their spending capacity", Mazumdar said.

Mahanta added said that rhinos have a global demand and the market is spread throughout the world.

Work on the book had started last year but picked up pace in the last four months. With both writers having different work schedules, it was difficult for them to dedicate time for the book. The writers compared the progress of their book with that of the pace of the animal. "The rhino is basically a slow animal but once it sets its eyes on a target, it can really move fast. Our book also progressed like a rhino. We started off slowly but during the last four months, we really did most of the work," said Mahanta.

Talking about the reason behind writing the book, Mahanta explains, "The idea was to make a comprehensive book on the important tourist destinations of Assam and which provides the answers to all the questions that people might have. We started off with the Kamakhya temple and our next project was supposed to be on the rhino. However, we did Majuli instead and then we took up the book on rhinos. We wrote it in English so that it benefits people from outside the State who want to have more information on these issues". He added that a book in a coffee table format is "more appealing" for many people.

It may be mentioned here that the Majuli River Island, Kamakhya temple and one-horned rhinos of Kaziranga are Assam's most celebrated symbols worldwide. While Kamakhya is one of the oldest of the Shakti Peethas, Majuli Rive Island has a fascinating history and over the years the river island has emerged as a chief repository of the socio-cultural heritage of Assam.

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