One-horned rhinos roam the streets in India

One-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park which has been flooded in the monsoons

Almost 85% of the Kaziranga National Park is underwater. The park is in Assam, India. It is home to the world’s largest remaining population of one-horned rhinos which were hunted to the brink of extinction by the turn-of-the-century. Due to a concerted conservation effort which includes the shooting of suspected poachers there are now about 2,400 one-horned rhinos in the park which is about two thirds of the entire world population.

One-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park which has been flooded in the monsoons

One-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park which has been flooded in the monsoons. Photo: Getty images.

The acute flooding has forced the one-horned rhinos to higher ground and into villages. A rhinoceros mother and her calf was seen searching for food in a village in Assam’s Morigaon district this week. There have been other rhino sightings near Kaziranga National Park. A dozen have drowned.

Tigers have also been seen in villages. One male cat was discovered sheltering from the rain is in a goat shed. The heavy monsoon rains causing the flooding has killed hundreds of rare animals and more than 200 people. Across north-east India and neighbouring countries, 9.6 million people have been displaced.

The flooding comes on top of the coronavirus pandemic with which India has struggled. More than 1 million cases had been reported across the country, the world’s third-largest numbers.

Hundreds of relief camps have been set up to house those who have been displaced. Sir David Attenborough’s film crew used the Kaziranga National Park when filming Planet Earth II. William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited last year. Rangers at the park had been given the authority to shoot and kill poachers. Normally this authority was only granted to armed forces policing civil unrest.

Rhino horn continues to fetch high prices in the Far East. Rhino horn is made of keratin which is the same material of which hair and human nails are made. It has no medicinal benefits to anybody but nonetheless it is sold as a miracle cure for cancer to erectile dysfunction in the Far East including Vietnam and China. Street vendors charge as much as $6000 US for 100 g which makes it more expensive than gold.

I know I go on about it but Chinese traditional medicine pretty well single-handedly and catastrophically undermines conservation of these iconic wild species which also includes tigers and lions and many other smaller species. Something must be done about traditional Chinese medicine as a matter of urgency.