India’s state of Assam holds nearly three-quarters of the world’s greater one-horned rhinos. Sadly, the species has been driven from many of the areas where it used to be common. Its full recovery depends not only on protecting the species where it has managed to survive but also reintroducing them to places from which they’ve disappeared.

The Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020) has officially come to a close with the translocation of two rhinos in April 2021 to Manas National Park in Assam, India. Plans for the next program are underway and will be announced later this year.

Over the course of 15 years, there have been both successes and failures. Perhaps the biggest success is the perseverance and dedication to making improvements over the course of the program.

Wild-to-wild translocations were an essential part of IRV2020 – moving rhinos from densely populated parks like Kaziranga NP, to ones in need of more rhinos, like Manas NP.

The goal of IRV2020 was to increase the rhino population in Assam to 3,000 by establishing populations in new areas. Rhinos are now found in four Protected Areas in Assam: Pobitora Wildlife Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, and Manas National Park.

IRV2020 was established in 2005 when IRF Program Director Dr. Tom Foose and Randy Rieches (San Diego Zoo Global) met with leaders from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), including Drs. Tariq Aziz, Christy Williams, and Chandra Prasad Gurung, the Bodo Territorial Council, and representatives of the Government of Assam to develop a long-term strategy for greater one-horned rhino management in India’s State of Assam.

An initial population of 18 was established in Manas. Challenges have included instability due to socio-political unrest in the vicinity of the park. Translocations were paused many times to ensure the safety of both the rhinos and people. 2012 saw the first loss of a rhino to poaching. Births in subsequent years were offset by poaching. The IRV2020 partners perform regular monitoring and security assessments and make improvements based on recommendations by both local and worldwide experts.

IRV2020 partners have witnessed continuous improvement in protection and enforcement over the course of the program. 2018 and 2019 saw significant decreases in poaching, the results of forestry, local and national government officials coordinating efforts to combat wildlife crime across Assam.

In 2017, the program marked a significant success – a third generation in Manas. The female offspring of Ganga, a female rhino that arrived in Manas in 2007, gave birth to her own calf, a male. With the latest translocation and several births, the Manas population has grown to 42 rhinos.

It takes a lot of planning and preparation and a large team to ensure a translocation goes as smoothly as possible. Great job and congratulations to all the translocation teams!

The work of IRV2020 has often been difficult and not all of the original goals have been met. There have been several starts and stops along the way. What has been most important is there was and remains a long term commitment dedicated to the not just the survival of this species which once numbered around 100 and now is more than 3,600, but that greater one-horned rhinos will thrive for many generations to come.

Many lessons have been learned in the 15 years of IRV2020, and many more will be learned. The IRV2020 partners will meet when possible again to discuss strategy and goals for the future. They will review each success and failure as well as each failure that led to a new success. After all, continuous improvement, perseverance, and long term commitment to increasing the population of greater one-horned rhinos is what brought diverse partners to come together to create and implement IRV2020.

IRF takes this opportunity to offer its sincere gratitude to Assam Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, WWF-India, USFWS and other local agencies involved in IRV 2020 since the beginning of 2005 and IRF is committed to continued collaborations and partnership.

Those traits and collaboration will be at the core of what the next Indian Rhino Vision program will become. The photo below from the most recent translocation demonstrates those values. Security, veterinary, park officials, forestry officials, local and world partners are all working together to accomplish the mission of IRV2020.

Rhino Operations in India

Our annual operations include:

  • Providing logistical support and training for wildlife crime enforcement;
  • Tracking and monitoring rhinos on a continual basis to ensure their safety;
  • Continuing intensive monitoring of these populations;
  • Growing population by translocating animals to new, sustainable habitats;
  • Working with local communities to build support for rhino conservation through education and employment;
  • Habitat management, including invasive species removal.

Latest News from India

A male and a female greater one-horned rhino arrived in Manas National Park in Assam, India today. The two rhinos were captured in Pobitora National Park yesterday and transported under the supervision of experts for their release.

The new arrivals increased the population of greater one-horned rhinos in Manas with 49 rhinos now roaming the park. This translocation, originally scheduled for last year but delayed due to the global pandemic, marks the final operation under the guidance of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 program (IRV2020), which established an initial population of 18 in Manas in 2009.

“On behalf of IRF, we would like to congratulate the forest department, park officials and the teams of the Translocation Core Committee for the successful translocation,” said Nina Fascione, executive director of IRF. “IRV2020 was an ambitious vision that was made possible thanks to the cooperation of local and national government, wildlife conservation organizations and on-the-ground partners working together to recover habitats and protect rhinos so that they can thrive in the wild.”

Greater one-horned rhinos currently number more than 3,700 in India and Nepal. The translocated rhinos increase the genetic diversity of the Manas population, achieving the goal of a natural and healthy breeding program for the future of the species.

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Clearing The Way For Rhinos In Manas National Park

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