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article imageRhino habitat wants its World Heritage Site status back

By Subir Ghosh     Jan 26, 2011 in Environment
Guwahati - A four-member UNESCO-IUCN monitoring team is visiting Manas National Park in Assam for an on-the-spot assessment if the "danger" tag attached to the World Heritage Site should be removed.
The outcome of the five-day visit will play an important role at the 35th World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain during June when the issue will be discussed. The last time that a UNESCO team visited Manas was in 2008.
Manas National Park is India’s only World Heritage Site on the Danger List. It was tagged " World Heritage Site in Danger" in 1992, following largescale damage to its wildlife and forest cover during the peak of the Bodoland movement in the 1990s. It lost all its rhinos, and damage to the sanctuary was estimated at more than 2 million USD at that time.
Since then there have been innumerable pleas for removal of the danger tag, especially after the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council following the surrender of Bodo militants. The recovery, however, was not deemed good enough.
The 34th World Heritage Committee meeting in Brasilia last year decided to retain the danger tag, but it also asked the state party (India) to submit a detailed report by February 1, 2011, on the state of conservation and implementation of corrective measures. It is in this light that the UNESCO-IUCN team's visit assumes significance.
“We recognise the great efforts by the Indian authorities to support recovery of wildlife populations and improve the overall park management,” said Tim Badman, Head of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “The mission will be exploring all the issues raised in previous reports and looking to see what progress is being made.”
A reintroduction programme for rhinos under the Assam forest department’s Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020) has increased to eight the number of rhinos currently in Manas and more re-introductions are under way. An additional six elephant calves have also recently been moved to Manas and camera-traps are being used to monitor tigers in the park. IRV2020 is a joint project of the Government of Assam and WWF-India, supported by the International Rhino Foundation and the US Fish and Widllife Service. It aims to increase the rhino population in Assam to 3000 by the year 2020.
In December 2010 a mother and its calf were translocated under IRV 2020 (the first took place in 2008 with two males). Earlier this month, four rhinos were released in Manas in the second round of the second phase of the project. The last of the rhinos were moved from the nearby Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary which has the highest density of rhinos in the world.
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