IUCN - Asian Rhino Specialist Group

Location: N/a
Project leaders: Dr Bibhab Talukdar and Sectionov (Inov)
Project partner: IUCN SSC (World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission)
Rhino species: Greater one-horned rhino, Sumatran rhino and Javan rhino
Rhino numbers: Approx. 2,850 Greater one-horned rhino, 200 Sumatran and fewer than 50 Javan
Activities: research, strategy, coordination, rhino-horn fingerprinting project
Support: We have helped pay for the most recent AfRSG meeting
Funding partners: International Rhino Foundation, Taiwan Forestry Bureau

The Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) is one of the Specialist Groups operating under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC). The IUCN’s SSC is a science-based network of some 7,500 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world, all working together towards achieving the vision of “A world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity."

Most members are deployed in more than 100 Task Forces or Specialist Groups such as the Asian Rhino Specialist Group, which addresses Asian rhino conservation and related topical issues, such the reintroduction of species into former habitats or animal health. Members include: researchers; government officials; wildlife veterinarians; zoo and botanical institute employees; protected area managers; experts on Asian rhinos; and international NGOs.

Greater one horned rhino - credit SRI                                     Greater one-horned rhino - Credit SRI

Working in close association with IUCN’s Species Programme, the SSC’s major role is to provide information to IUCN on biodiversity conservation, the inherent value of species, their role in ecosystem health and functioning, the provision of ecosystem services, and their support to human livelihoods. SSC members also provide scientific advice to conservation
organisations, government agencies and other IUCN members, and support the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. The technical guidelines produced by the SSC provide guidance to specialised conservation projects and initiatives, such as re-introducing animals into their former ranges, handling confiscated specimens, and halting the spread of invasive species.

The AsRSG aims to:

  • Review the status and trends of Asian rhino populations in the wild and captivity as well as collate information on poaching
  • Facilitate information exchange and collaboration between range state members, other members and invited delegates
  • Provide technical information on the management of rhinos, and facilitate cooperation on conservation-related research on Asian rhinos through the presentation of papers
  • Use working groups at the meeting to provide technical support to facilitate decision-making and the development and implementation of appropriate rhino policies, and to advice on the implications of various policy options
  • Provide a forum for feedback from donor agencies to rhino conservationists in the field
  • Hold the members-only AsRSG meeting
  • Inform AsRSG members of the conservation status of the other two species of rhino found in Africa, as well as any major rhino conservation initiatives in Africa

AsRSG meeting Assam Kaziranga NPAsRSG meeting in Kaziranga National Park Feb 2011 Credit SRI

The AsRSG’s Chair, Dr Bibhab Talukdar, was appointed in June 2008. Dr Talukdar is well qualified for the role, having worked for Indian NGO, Aaranyak, based in Assam for 19 years, and since June 2008 for the International Rhino Foundation as its Asian Rhino Coordinator, with responsibility for its Greater One-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhino programmes in India and Indonesia. This bridge between South East Asia and South Asia will prove invaluable in terms of bringing together disparate people and approaches, and Dr Talukdar intends to foster even greater cooperation between the Asian rhino range states, by arranging regular meetings and workshops as follows:

  • Bi-annual AsRSG workshops involving all Asian rhino range countries
  • Annual AsRSG South East Asia workshops focusing on Javan and Sumatran rhinos (Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam)
  • Annual AsRSG Southern Asia workshops focusing on Indian rhinos (Nepal and India)

The AsRSG, Save the Rhino International (SRI, a UK-based NGO) and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF, a US-based NGO) strongly believe in partnerships and in the sharing of best practice between rhino conservation organisations. They strive to encourage and enable the sharing of information, experience and skills between the programmes across Asia and between key stakeholders of each three species through the facilitation of AsRSG meetings and workshops. It is essential that these experiences and expertises are shared among the range countries to enhance conservation and management of rhinos in existing range countries.