25 percent of Orang national park "most suitable" for rhinos


25% of Orang suitable for rhinos: Study


Guwahati, May 30: Only 25 per cent area is “most suitable” for rhinos in Orang National Park, which has forced the park authorities to think of measures to increase the habitat.

This has been revealed in a study on evaluation of habitat suitability for rhinos in Orang National Park by Pranjit Kumar Sarma, a GIS expert of Aaranyak and other organisations.

The study, using satellite imagery of November 2008, was published in International Scholarly Research Network Ecology journal.

The park, covering an area of 78.8 square km, is a prime habitat for rhinos on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. This park, which has 64 rhinos, is also a prime habitat for other endangered species like tigers, elephants and deer.

The fluctuating population of rhinos in Orang from 35 in 1972 to 97 in 1991 and 64 in 2009 reinforced the need for habitat suitability evaluation to identify key habitat factors and total suitable area for rhinos in the park.

The results of the study show that only 19.81 square km of the park is “most suitable” for rhinos, which covers 25.13 per cent of the total geographical area of the park. This indicates that most suitable habitat for rhinos in the park is not enough for the rhino population.

Rhinos prefer wet alluvial grassland, which plays a critical role in their habitat , throughout the year.

The “moderately suitable” habitat for rhinos in the park is 10.74 square km, which is 13.62 per cent of the total geographical area of the park. Moderately suitable habitat is characterised by dry savannah grassland.

The area covered by “less suitable” habitat is 48.25 square km, which is 61.23 per cent of the total geographical area of the park. Out of 48.45 square km of less suitable habitat for rhinos, 5.78 square km is covered by the Brahmaputra, 5.77 square km is covered by degraded grassland, and 5.39 square km is covered by river sands.

The results are based on a yearlong field survey conducted in the park from September 2008 to understand the habitat utilisation pattern of rhinos in different seasons. Wildlife habitat suitability analysis is considered as the most important criteria for conservation and management of wildlife and its habitat. Suitability analysis includes a wide variety of factors like habitat pattern and quality, distance from road, availability of water and topography.

The divisional forest officer of Orang National Park, S.K. Daila, said he could comment on the report only after reading the article. “An accuracy assessment of habitat suitability map was done based on rhino presence and absence and relationship with habitat suitability and rhino sighting and the results have been validated,” Sarma said.

The study recommended that immediate action should be taken to conserve the existing suitable habitat and measures should also be taken to expand the most suitable habitat of the park from 25 per cent to at least 40 to 45 per cent of the total geographical area of the park.

The park managers should also take the initiative to increase the wet alluvial grassland habitat in the park, which rhinos prefer the most throughout the year.


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