Rhino Translocation to Manas:: A Decade of Milestone

Many great things are never done by the single person but by a dedicated team of people who are not afraid to take leadership. Wild to wild rhino translocation to Manas is such an effort which was achieved through the involvement of multiple sections of the skilled persons from the different institutions of Assam. It is now one decade since we translocated two wild odd male rhinos to Manas from the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary. The rhino translocation team have overcome thousands of obstacles to reestablish the rhinos during the last decade with a support of countless courage effort.  The success of rhino translocation in Manas might be the symbol of dedication, solidarity and finally, love for the greater one-horned rhino.

History Of Rhino at Manas 

Manas National Park had a good rhino habitat and prior to 1989, more than 100 rhinos were estimated there. The entire population of Manas was wiped out due to poaching in the early nineties. In a motive to increase the rhino population in Assam, the Government of Assam, with support from International Rhino Foundation (IRF), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bodoland Territorial Council, launched the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020) in 2005 to help the existing rhino population and to reintroduce rhinos into protected areas from which they were exterminated in the recent past. The program is aimed to achieve a population of 3000 rhinos by the year 2020 at seven Protected Areas in Assam.

Thrilling moment of the first release of rhino at Manas 

Perhaps each team member of rhino translocation still remembers the delighted moments when the first two odd male rhinos were released at rhino release site of Buraburijhar under the Bansbari range of Manas NP. These two rhinos were captured at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary on 11th, April 2008 and same day evening they were transported to Manas NP with VVIP security. The two rhinos were released during the wee hours on 12th April 2008 with joy, thrill, and aspiration. Each one of the rhino translocation team cherished the historical moment spontaneously when the rhinos entered the dense grassland of Manas with an aspiration of the new dawn. 

What is animal Translocation

Translocation is the intentional release of the animal to the wild in an attempt to establish, re-establish or augment the population and new conservation science. Translocation of rhino is not an easy process and it has to follow strict international and national protocols. As per protocols, the team members had to develop their own capacity on different stages. Looking into serious scientific matter at each stage, different teams were constituted to execute the different task.

Preparation of rhino translocation

The logistics team constructed Crate and Sledges and other equipment. They even gave training to novice truck drivers about how much speed should the trucks follow to carry the rhinos on the road. The capture team included the best-experienced veterinarian of Assam. Similarly, the release and post-release monitoring teams were formed and gave orientation from the experienced senior expert from states. 

 Our Initial Days at Manas

Initial days were full of challenges for the post-release monitoring team at Manas to keep the track of the rhinos. There were limited anti-poaching camps, few fare weather roads, and hardly any recurring cost to bear the day to day patrolling activities. However, the frontline staff and conservation volunteers never lost their wills to carry their duties in such peril situations. Presence of the rhinoceros created a positive psychosis and responsibility among them.

The Great Leadership

This was happened due to the dynamic leadership of Mr. Kampha Borgowary Deputy Chief of Bodoland Territorial Council, then field director Mr. Anindya Swargowary and deputy field director Mr. C. R. Bhobora. They have carried this herculean task with the support of the local and international well-wishers. Above all, the local community and conservation volunteers from Manas Maozigrendi Ecotourism Society (MMES), Manas Agrang Conservation Society(MAS), Manas Bhuyanpara Conservation and Ecotourism Society (MBCES), Swankar Mithinga Onsai Afat (SMOA), Panbari Manas Conservation and Ecotourism Society (PMCES), United Social Welfare Society (USWS), Manas Ever Welfare Society (MEWS), are actively supporting the conservation and protection of rhinos at Manas. They indeed created the bridge between government and surrounding communities.
The establishment of a new rhino population at Manas through the wild-to-wild translocation program under Indian Rhino Vision 2020 opened up a new dimension in conservation efforts for this magnificent pachyderm. It can be expected that rhino translocation program at Manas will also contribute to the mixing of genes from individuals from Pobitora and Kaziranga populations as two sites are the source populations for Manas population. Manas has now 35 rhinos’ population including few rescued and rehabilitated rhinoceros. Although we faced a major setback by losing 10 rhinos to the poachers, the birth of the 17 new generation rhino calves gave the park hope.

The establishment of rhino population is one of the key factors that helped Manas to get back its UNESCO (Natural) World Heritage Site in 2011.  The reviving National park during the last one decade has also boosted the tiny tourism industry near the park and offering the alternative livelihood for the fringe community. The transboundary Manas conservation initiatives parley is also being progressed in both sides of the Indo-Bhutan border.

My Proud Moments

When I look back to this long 10 years, I feel proud to be an active part of this silent initiative to revive the rhino population at Manas National Park. But the rhino population and the fragile habitat of Manas need much attention from all the stakeholders of the society. Let’s “love and save Manas for humankind”.