Guwahati: Advanced genetic tools have been used for the first time to conduct a census of Greater One-Horned Rhinos in the Gorumara National Park in West Bengal.
Forty-three rhinos have been identified in the census, conducted by biodiversity conservation organisation `Aaranyak`, through genetic analysis of dung samples, the organisation`s head of Wildlife Genetics Programme, Udayan Borthakur, said.
"These results are significant as according to the 2012 rhino census, conducted by the Forest Department using the conventional methods, there were 42 rhinos in the Park," Borthakur said.
Moreover, the study confirms a sex ratio 4:1 (male: female) similar to what has been found earlier and this skewed sex ratio with more number of males has been a matter of concern for the authorities, he said.
The project was undertaken with the permission and support from the West Bengal Forest Department to which Aaranyak has already submitted the report recommending further genetic study on rhinos in the particular sanctuary as well as the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, both in Jalpaiguri district.
Borthakur, who is also a member of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, pointed out that the genetic diversity in the Gorumara rhino population is low, which necessitates management intervention to ensure long term survival.
"This is an important methodological development in the field of rhino research, which may greatly contribute towards scientific management of rhinos populations in India.
Aaranyak would also discuss the census report with the West Bengal Forest Department and undertake further work in both Gorumara National Park and Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary to answer some questions pertaining to the `management` of the animal, Borthakur added.
Aaranyak`s secretary-general and Asian Rhino specialist Bibhab Kumar Talukdar said that such technological development bears great significance in scientific monitoring and conservation of rhinos in future.
"In practice it is challenging to distinguish male and female rhinos in tall grassland habitats and as such additional tools like dung DNA could assist in distinguishing male and female species which is important for proper management of rhino population," he said.
Aaranyak has already provided technical support to genetic population estimation of other two Asian rhino species, the Javan and the Sumatran rhino in Indonesia, he said.