Rhino and elephants returned to wild in India, protected land increased

Monday, February 25, 2008
Manas, India
The animals, which were hand-raised at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) in Kaziranga National Park, were translocated yesterday, by truck, 450 kilometers to Manas National Park. Manas National Park is a World Heritage site in northeast India which has seen wildlife populations decline dramatically in recent decades. IFAW and WTI have been working together for several years to restore the park’s ecosystem, including increasing the populations of endangered animals. Today marks only the second time the endangered Asian elephant has been rehabilitated and released to the wild in India. Last February, IFAW and WTI released 6 elephants into Manas National Park. Sri Lanka and Kenya are the only other countries to have successfully released hand-raised elephants into the wild. The greater-one horned rhino is only the fourth in the park – IFAW and WTI having moved the other 3 previously – and the species is highly endangered with only about 1,700 animals left on the planet.
 
It was also announced today that the size of protected land in Manas National Park has been tripled. The existing area in Manas is approximately 300 square kilometers and today’s announcement increases the size of the park, adding 950 square kilometers. Manas has one of the largest remaining populations of Golden langurs in the world and is the only place in northeast India where Cheetal, or spotted deer, are found. Other animals found in Manas include hornbills, tigers, Gaurs, and a herd of approximately 500 wild elephants.
 
“IFAW, WTI and the governments in Assam are working very hard to protect and rehabilitate wildlife,” said A.J. Cady, Director of Animals in Crisis and Distress for IFAW. “Today is another important milestone in the incremental progress we are making toward restoring Manas as ever more viable for wildlife. The fact that the government is enlarging Manas National Park to protect even more valuable habitat is a very encouraging sign.”
 
The 2 elephants, approximately 3 years old, were rehabilitated in Kaziranga. One young calf was rescued from a ditch on a tea estate and the other was rescued after it got stuck in mud and was abandoned by its herd. Both the elephants and the relocated rhino will wear radio collars for effective post-release monitoring.
 
Currently, there are approximately 35,000-45,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild, with nearly another 10,000 in captivity within Asia. An estimated 30,000 of these elephants are located in India.

Asian elephants have been listed on the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I since the start of the Convention in 1975. They remain greatly threatened by poaching and also habitat fragmentation which spurs rampant human-elephant conflict throughout the country. Wildlife “corridors,”or narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another, are the emerging means of addressing this problem. So far, 88 elephant corridors have been identified in India; the first was secured just two months ago. 


About WTI (Wildlife Trust of India)
Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), is a non-profit conservation organisation, committed to urgent action that prevents destruction of India's wildlife. Formed in November 1998, WTI was created in response to the rapidly deteriorating condition of wildlife in India
 
IFAW and WTI formed a partnership in 2000 to strengthen the cause of wildlife conservation and animal welfare in India. The two organizations share concerns for a number of endangered animals, including the Tibetan antelope. Through this collaboration, IFAW and WTI are developing strategies to find solutions to wildlife threats in India and the surrounding region.  

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