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Rhino census in India's Kaziranga park counts 12 more

A census team wades through water on an elephant back to avoid two Indian one-horned rhinos during the census inside the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, north-east India, 26 March 2018Image copyright EPA
Image caption Census takers used elephants and sports vehicles to conduct the survey

A census in India's Kaziranga National Park has counted 2,413 one-horned rhinos – up 12 from 2015.

The Unesco World Heritage Site, in Assam state, is home to two-thirds of the world's population of the species.

The census is carried out every three years.

It is an incredible conservation success story given the fact that there were only a few hundred rhinos in the 1970s, says the BBC's South Asia editor Anbarasan Ethirajan.

However, the conservation effort has not been without controversy.

The government has in recent years given the park rangers extraordinary powers to protect the animals from harm – powers usually only given to soldiers intervening in civil unrest.

About 150 rhinos have been killed for their horns since 2006, but in 2015, park guards shot dead more people than poachers killed rhinos.

To carry out the census, authorities divided the 170-sq-mile (430-sq-km) park into 74 compartments, with 300 government and NGO officials conducting the survey.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Rhino numbers have soared since the 1970s

Forty elephants and 17 sports vehicles helped them get around.

The census total given is an estimate, with authorities cautioning that the population could be bigger than that counted because some animals were concealed by tall grasses and reeds.

This vegetation is usually burnt down to encourage its regeneration but this was hampered by unseasonal rains, said reports.

It could mean the census is carried out again next year.

Since its foundation in 1905, Kaziranga has had great success in conserving and boosting animal populations.

As well as being a haven for one-horned rhinoceroses, the park was declared a tiger reserve by the Indian government, and is also home to elephants, wild water buffalo and numerous bird species.

The endangered South Asian river dolphin also lives in the rivers that criss-cross the park.

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