Pachyderm, No 46 (2009)

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Assessment of habitat change and threats to the greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) in Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, using multi-temporal satellite data

Pranjit Kumar Sarma, Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Kiranmay Sarma, Mrigen Barua

Abstract


Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), located in north-eastern India, is a prime habitat for Rhinoceros unicornis, Indian or greater one-horned rhinos. With a population of 84 rhinos, Pabitora WLS has the proud legacy of sheltering the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world. Although the total notified area of the sanctuary is 38.80 km2, the state government of Assam is yet to handover an area of 11.07 km2 to the sanctuary authority. As such, the Department of Environment and Forests, Assam presently manages a total area of only 27.73 km2. Only 12.57 km2 has been found to be suitable as rhino habitat. Satellite imagery from 1977, 1999 and 2004 was analysed for assessment of rhino habitat change in Pabitora WLS. Results indicate that there is a substantial increase in woodland (34.51%) accompanied by decline in alluvial grassland (68%) from 1977 to 2004 within the sanctuary area of 38.80 km2. This change of habitat is mostly because of the natural succession process, local livestock grazing and improper management of the grassland habitat. In this paper,
we recommended a set of habitat management protocols for the restoration of key habitats in Pabitora WLS.

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