Launched in 2005, Indian Rhino Vision 2020 is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
Greater one-horned, or Indian, rhinoceros once roamed from Pakistan to the Indo-Burmese border, and in parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. But by the beginning of the 20th century, hunting and habitat loss had reduced the species to fewer than 200 individuals in northern India and Nepal. Thanks to strict protection implemented by Indian and Nepalese authorities, the population has rebounded to more than 3,600 today.
Despite these successes, however, Indian rhinos are still threatened by poaching and habitat loss. Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India, holds about two-thirds of the world population. This is worrisome for two reasons – the park may have reached its carrying capacity and might not be able to support any more rhinos; and the entire species’ population could be decimated by a disease outbreak, natural disaster, or other acute threat.
IRF has partnered with the Assam Forest Department, the Bodoland Territorial Council, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service to address the threats facing Indian rhinos. We are moving rhinos from overcrowded areas, like Kaziranga National Park and Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, to other protected areas where they can breed. Along with continuing strict protection and community engagement, spreading Indian rhinos out among more protected areas will create a larger, safer, and more stable population.
2005 to 2008– IRF and our Indian Rhino Vision 2020 partners worked with local communities and park and government authorities to improve protection and monitoring of existing populations, constructing guard posts, patrol roads, and bridges.
April 2008 – Rhino translocations began and over the next 4 years, IRV 2020 moved 18 Indian rhinos from Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park to Manas National Park (a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage site that had previously been home to a large rhino population before the poaching crisis). An additional eight rhinos were moved to Manas by the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation.
Mid-2012 – One of the females gave birth to the first calf born in Manas since rhino reintroductions began! A total of 18 rhino calves have been born in the park – a sure sign that the translocated animals are adapting well to their new home.
2012- 2013 – Unfortunately, this population has also been touched by a region-wide increase in poaching. After losing eight animals, IRV 2020 halted rhino translocations to Manas in 2013 to focus on improving security. Training in new patrolling methods, along with the support of new park leadership, has made a big difference – only one rhino was lost to poaching in Manas in 2014 and one in 2017. The current population of rhinos in Manas continues to thrive with two more births in 2019.
February 29, 2020 – The 19th & 20th translocations under IRV2020 were completed with two females moved from Kaziranga to Manas NP, bringing the total Manas population to 40.
Building on the success of this 15-year program, partners will gather in the coming months to evaluate the completed IRV2020 plan and determine next steps to ensure the survival of the greater one-horned rhino in India and Nepal.