Many of the one-horned rhinoceros of Gorumara and Jaldapara national parks will soon get new homes as the state government has prepared natural habits by developing two other parks — one of which is situated close to Gorumara and the other at Patlakhawa in Cooch Behar.
The state Forest department had identified some forest areas where these animals could be shifted. For this, the department took up elaborate plans to develop grass forests thereby preparing natural habitats for the one-horned rhinos.
There are currently more than 255 one-horned rhinos in Gorumara and Jaldapara. The total number of the animal is quite high as compared to the total forest area. Hence, the government felt the need to move some of the rhinos to other adjoining forests. A Forest department official said that the total number of rhinos has increased beyond the capacity of these parks.
State Forest minister Binay Krishna Burman said that the department has a plan to shift around 50 one-horned rhinos to the new forest parks that are coming up in North Bengal. Natural habitats are there in two new parks where the rhinos would be shifted. The department has also taken up various schemes to build infrastructure.
It may be mentioned that the Asian Rhino Specialist Group (ARSG) under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also suggested the state
Forest department to find new sites which could accommodate the increasing rhino population.
ARSG also stressed upon the need for increasing the genetic diversity of the rhino population in Jaldapara and Gorumara national parks. The project aims at the promotion and conservation of the endangered species.
The Buxa Tiger reserve was also initially identified as a place where these rhinos could be shifted to. A team from the Centre had visited the places identified by the state Forest department and expressed their satisfaction over the building of infrastructure. Though they are yet to give the final nod in this regard, the state Forest department officials believe that they would get the permission from the Centre soon to shift the animals to their new homes. It was learnt that the one-horned rhinos might not be shifted to Buxa as it is situated close to the Assam border.
Rhinos are currently found in three states — Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. A survey said that in West Bengal, the number of rhinos has increased.
According to the survey in 2015, there were 250 one-horned rhinos which stood at 20 in 1990.
"The main purpose of the move is to ensure that the one-horned rhinos are kept in a better environment. This will also help in promoting tourism in North Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has laid great stress in promoting tourism in North Bengal besides other places. The two new places where the one-horned rhinos would be shifted would be one of the main attractions for tourists," Burman said.