Image: Manasi Roy, Wikimedia Commons

Jaldapara National Park is home to the largest population of Indian one-horned rhinos in the state, and despite poaching initiatives — they are thriving.

The park is situated in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in West Bengal, spread across nearly eighty-four square miles of forest and grassland, encompassing portions of the Torsa River.

As of 2015, more than two hundred rhinos persist within the park boundaries. The Asian one-horned rhino (Rhinocerus unicornis) was close to extinction in the early 20th century with only 600 animals remaining in the wild, according to the WWF. Their population now exceeds 3,000, despite the growing demand for rhino horn worldwide.

Hunting and habitat loss have historically been the rhino’s biggest threats, but improved conditions, protection protocols, and cultivated community relationships have attributed to their growing numbers.

Image: Rupak Sarkar, Wikimedia Commons

According to Mongabay, there were zero poaching incidents of the park’s highlight species in 2016. Conservation initiatives include better park patrolling via foot, jeep, and elephant-back. The use of elephants allows for easier access across otherwise inaccessible terrain.

Watchtowers and anti-poaching camps are located throughout the park, strategically providing for protection during all hours of the night. A central monitoring system utilizing a team of GPS-enabled devices allows for effective communication between park employees.

In addition, the park is working with local communities in order to optimize conservation efforts. These relationships are maintained by sixty-three Joint Forest Management Committees. They provide work and compensation in exchange for inside intelligence regarding any illegal activity, and wildlife protection assistance.

Many community members are actively involved with ecotourism as well and are paid directly by tourists to show them around the park. Park management constantly strives to provide more income opportunities for local community members.

“Rhinos come as close as 100 meters to human habitations and villages, hence without the cooperation of local people, it is impossible to protect them,” Chief Wildlife Warden Vyas explains to Mongabay.

Jaldapara National Park serves as a beacon of hope for the entire rhino species.