Is Manas National Park loosing rhinos gradually?

A moment of translocated rhino release at Manas NP

Manas National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most beautiful places on the earth. The national park has unique natural as well as cultural heritage. It is a hub of endangered as well as elusive creatures of nature. During the last decades of the 20th century, Manas underwent serious political turmoil when it's infrastructure and biodiversity were almost destroyed. But positive forces keep supported this natural landscape and brought it back to its glory. This natural site is one of best examples of recent positive conservation effort. As a result of relentless efforts of innumerable organizations, Manas has been reviving.

The terai-Babar landscape of Manas once holds more than 100 rhinos prior to 1989. Manas lost entire resident rhinoceros population in the early nineties due to poaching. So, a new population has been established under ambitious rhino conservation program popularly known as Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020). Under IRV2020 Program, 18 odd rhinoceros were translocated from Pobitora Wild Life Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park since the period of 2008 to 2012. In parallel to this process, 9 rescued rhinos rehabilitated and released at Manas under the Rescue and Rehabilitation program of Government of Assam.

My discussion with field persons 
As a field researcher of the program, I paced the trail laid by these pachyderms since their release for several years counting every step with the energetic Rhino Monitoring team of Bansbari and Bhuyanpara ranges. Lots of efforts are still involved in conserving this magnificent beast. But just one bullet and a mindless soul are enough to destroy thousand people’s conservation efforts. The story is to show how some culprit is eager to wipe out this heritage animal from the earth despite sacrifices and benevolent of hundreds of persons.

R10 with her calf
Udangsiri (R10 an adult female) was translocated from Pobitora Wild Life Sanctuary to Manas on 8th January 2011. She gave birth to a male calf on 26th September 2012 after 9 months of her translocation. It was a new dawn which also indicated the rhino’s adaptation in the park. This newborn calf put forwarded rhino conservation effort one step ahead and contributed towards the revival of Manas National Park as the World Heritage Site. Besides difficulties and shortcoming, we observed newborn rhino calf regularly. Mr. Dharanidhar Boro and I toiled to observe the newborn calf of Udangsiri along with other colleagues of monitoring team. All these efforts were tiresome and time-consuming.  Sometimes we used to search for several hours to locate the calf within dense jungle.  Unfortunately, Udangsiri was poached by heartless poachers and she left alone her 11 months milking calf in the deep jungle of Manas. We were afraid for the immediate fate of desolate calf.  

But nature maintains its own role and responsibilities. Another adult male R5 guarded him against all types of natural hazards till two years old. This is an uncommon behavior among rhinoceros. The calf grew up and survived besides all natural threats. But it cannot escape from the cruelty of human beings and met the same fate as it's mother. Poachers killed the calf on 5th of May, 2016. At the time of its death, the juvenile calf has just protruding horn. Along with it, hours of inhuman efforts to conserve this species vanished from the park. A single bullet destroyed one of our natural heritage and aspirations.

In another case, Hainari, the adult female rhino (R17) was translocated to Manas from Kaziranga National Park in March 2012. Hainari adapted well to her new home and after 1year 19 days, she gave birth to a male calf in Sidhajahr area of the Bansbari range of Manas NP. The area is 40 km west of Bansbari. The area has mixed deciduous vegetation. Several river-channels zigzag the area and during monsoon, it is usually prone to flood. Such conditions often make patrolling and monitoring of mother with her newborn calf very difficult. In spite of such dedication of the monitoring as well as the patrolling team, Hainari was poached on 2nd April 2013 leaving it's desolate the calf in dense jungle. The newborn, who was hardly 20 days old was scared by the brutal killing of his mother and hid in the nearby bushes after the poaching incident.
Observed Dwaimalo just after rescue
On 4th April 2013, a massive rescue operation was arranged in an entire Sidhajhar area with the support of 30 frontline staffs, 20 local villagers, veterinarians and 6 patrolling elephants. The operation was headed by me and Mr. Dharanidhar Boro. Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury WTI along with another team member also joined that operation later on. After two hours of a rigorous search operation, Mr. Gopal Gaur, a well-experienced mahout was finally able to capture the calf with the support of other staffs. Thereafter, the calf was transported to Elephant Training Centre, Bansbari and kept there for few days with proper veterinary care. Finally, the calf was transferred to a temporary enclosure near the Rhino Camp. Since its rescue, the rhino calf was under observation of two experienced animal keepers, Rohan and Onthai of Wildlife Trust India. Rohan and Onthai kept this calf as their own child.  My team member Bipul, Jamir, Iusuf, Sande, Jawahar, Phani and Rhino camp team staff mainly Lonkeswar  Lahkar were always there to help. They fed it milk and another supplement for every two hours of interval. Not a single person missed their duty to safeguard this calf even at midnight. Mr Anindya Swargowari, then Field Director of Manas Tiger Reserve named him Dwaimalo. With ultimate human care and fondness, Dwaimalo was growing up. The calf was later released from the temporary enclosure to open ranging last year. As per behaviour budgeting, I observed everything was fine with the calf but suddenly the calf collapsed on 22 April 2016 and died immediately. This natural death gave immense sorrow to the entire team involved in this effort.
Dwaimalo after one year at Rehabilitated Centre Bansbari Manas 

Manas National Park has now 28 rhinos. It is now a living laboratory of rhinoceros. Rhino population of Manas need extra care and security. Pragmatic approach, solidarity is now vital to conserve this tiny pachyderm family as well as beautiful landscape. I urge everyone to support and take care of this natural heritage site as long as possible