The Horn Of Plenty

It’s a problem of one too many these days at Assam’s famous Kaziranga National Park, home to the once-endangered one-horned rhinoceros. At the root of this is an extremely successful conservation project that saved the rhino from near-extinction. Although the number of rhinos has risen from 12 in 1905 to 1,552 today, the sanctuary area hasn’t increased as rapidly, leaving the animals less space than they require. As Assam’s minister of state for forests Pradyut Bordoloi admits: “The rhinos are overflowing in Kaziranga.”

The situation is similar in Pabitora, a small sanctuary situated in the flood plains of Brahmaputra not very far from Guwahati. Here the concentration of rhinos is possibly the highest in the world with 76 horned animals jostling for space in about 16 sq km. Bordoloi is aware of the space crunch faced by the rhinos and other animals such as deer and wild buffaloes. Says he: “The original area of 430 sq km earmarked for Kaziranga is clearly not sufficient for the increased number of animals. So a decision was taken to add another 430 sq km to the park. Unfortunately, owing to several court cases, we have been able to gain control over just 280 sq km of additional area.”