GUWAHATI, March 31: There could be more rare one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga than the present official figure as inclement weather and poor visibility prevented proper estimation of the rhino population in the tiol park recently.
An official in the Forest Department told The Sentinel on Saturday that the latest estimate of the rhino population carried out inside Kaziranga tiol Park (KNP) on March 26-27 could not cover all areas of the park due to tall grass that could not be cut due to inclement weather. He said tall grass inside Kaziranga had also made visibility poor, forcing those engaged in the estimation exercise to exclude certain areas.
After the latest estimation, the KNP rhino population has reached 2,413, an increase by only 12 since the 2015 census. Sources said there might be nearly 150 rhinos which could not be counted during the estimation owing to poor visibility.
Even though the Forest Department official said similar situation had arisen in 2005 too, wildlife experts and NGOs have questioned as to why the latest estimation of rhino population was carried out at KNP at all if conditions were not conducive. “So, the latest estimation was a mere wastage of government money, time and energy,” a wildlife expert said.
The Forest Department in the meantime has decided to conduct a fresh estimation of rhino population next year.
On other hand more, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones, will fly over the tiol park to protect the one-horned rhinos from poachers in the future. The park has already one drone, and the Forest Department is now planning to procure a few more drones to intensify day-and-night aerial surveillance to ensure the safety of wildlife, particularly rhinos inside the park.
Use of drones was planned in 2013, and a few trials were conducted too, but the requisite clearance did not come from the Ministry of Defence until 2016. The park, with the highest tiger density and the highest rhino population in the country, had used the first drone in 2017.