Killing of rhino by tiger worries Dudhwa wildlife officials
ATIQ KHAN, LUCKNOW, January 31, 2013
A day after the half-eaten carcass of a 34-year-old female rhinoceros named Pavitri was recovered from the Rhino Rehabilitation Area in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) at Dudhwa National Park (DNP) in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh following her killing by a big cat, wildlife officials are perplexed at the tigers developing a liking for the one-horned animal despite the presence of ample prey base in the forest.
The late Monday night killing is the third instance of a rhino being killed by the roaming big cats in the last 14 months since the killing of a 35-year old male rhino in November 2011 followed by that of a young adult in December 2011. A female rhino named Himrani was attacked and injured by a tiger on December 1, 2011 but managed to survive due to the efforts of the park authorities.
In December last year another female rhino was mauled by a tiger in the rehabilitation area, but survived the deadly attack.
While the exact causes of the frequent attacks by the feline are yet to be ascertained, Deputy Director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Ganesh Bhatt said that it is not an unnatural phenomena as similar attacks have taken place in Kaziranga national park in Assam. “Calves and sub-adults and those rhinos who are weak are generally attacked by tigers, as had been the case with the adult female rhinoceros, Himrani, who too was weak,” Mr. Bhatt told The Hindu from DTR. However, the Dudhwa official clarified that the latest casualty, Pavitri was not weak bodied.
Since the tiger attacks have taken place in the months of November and December when the entire Terai region of Uttar Pradesh where Dudhwa is located is enveloped by dense fog it has been suggested that the big cats might have mistook the rhinos for some other animal.
Following the death of the female of the species, there are 33 rhinos in the rehabilitation area, which owes it origin to the Rhino Rehabilitation Project when seven rhinos were relocated in Dudhwa in 1984-85.
The movement of the rhinos in the rehabilitation area is being closely monitored and tracked by the authorities with the help of a unique identification system--the rhinos have been provided with identity numbers.
The rhino rehabilitation area in Salukapur in Sonaripur range of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is spread over an area of about 28 square kilometre. The entire area is fenced but as the Deputy Director of the Tiger Reserve said that barring the elephants the other animals including the tiger can cross the fence and enter the rehabilitation area. Even the rhinos cannot venture out of their home.
The grasslands of the Terai region once served as the natural habitat for the Great Indian Rhinoceros ( “Rhinoceros Unicornis” ) before the last rhino was hunted down by “ shikaris ” and poachers in the 19th century. Some years after the Dudhwa National Park came into existence in 1977, conservationists played an enabling role in relocating rhinos in the area. In 1984, five rhinos including three females were relocated from Kaziranga national park under the Rhino Rehabilitation Project. Two of the animals later died.
In 1985 four females from Shukla Phanta in bordering Nepal were shifted to Dudhwa in exchange of 16 elephants. Today there are 33 rhinos in the rehabilitation area.
Since the majority of the rhinos in the area have been sired by a single male of the species - Bankey, now in his 36th year ( the rhinos can live up to 60 years ), who was relocated from Assam in 1984 as a calf ---wild life enthusiasts have felt that in-breeding would effect the immune system of the animals.