New Delhi, Sep 21: Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma has pledged his support to WWF India's conservation efforts for rhinos, now found only in select pockets in India and Nepal with their numbers dwindling to just around 3,500, the wildlife body said Friday. In a statement, WWF India said globally, Sharma will join several other celebrities supporting its conservation activities. Sharma is the current captain of the Indian men's cricket team for the ongoing Asia Cup 2018. In India, he will join Bollywood stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Vidya Balan, and fellow cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, who have supported the body's work in the past, it said. "Rohit Sharma, renowned Indian cricketer and the current captain of the Indian men's cricket team for the ongoing Asia Cup, has pledged his support to WWF-India's rhino conservation efforts in the country," according to the statement. The announcement was made on the eve of World Rhino Day, it said. WWF-India has been working on rhino conservation for over four decades and has been instrumental in protecting the greater one-horned rhino or the Indian rhino. Rohit Sharma Replaces Virat Kohli as a Skipper; Check Out His ODI Captaincy Record.
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"Once found all along the Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra valley, the Indian rhino is now only found in select pockets in India and Nepal, with only about 3,500 of them left in both the countries. "This is a result of excessive poaching for their horn and the expansion of human settlements and change in land use patterns, leading to a loss of rhino habitats," WWF India said.
Sharma, according to the statement, said, "My love for rhinos sparked when I first heard about Sudan, the last male northern white African rhino who passed away this year, thus leading to the inevitable extinction of the entire species and that broke my heart."
"As the world and I mourned for my fallen friend Sudan, I researched the best way for me to help prevent something like this happening and the best way I know how is to create awareness. "After getting in touch with WWF, I learnt that 82 per cent of the world's rhinos reside in India and I am honoured to be WWF-India's rhino ambassador to spread awareness and do my bit to contribute to the protection and survival of the rhino and help make this world a better place for them," the statement quoted the cricketer as saying. Rohit Sharma Shines in His First India vs Pakistan Match as Captain, Scores Half Century To Register Second Win in Asia Cup 2018 Tournament.
The large mammals are found primarily in three states – Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh -- and 82 per cent of the world's rhinos reside in India. WWF-India was a key initiator of the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 in Assam in partnership with the Assam Forest Department and other partners. The wildlife body is currently working to ensure that a breeding population of the greater one-horned rhino in India is spread across 10 Protected Areas by 2030.
"In order to raise awareness about the Indian rhino's significance and to effectively communicate WWF-India efforts towards the conservation of the species, Rohit Sharma will be a huge asset to the organisation. "Sharma has also lent his autographed bat and jersey to be auctioned to support WWF-India's conservation efforts in India," the body said. The cricketer will use his position as a platform to spread the message of protecting rhinos and preserving their habitats," the statement said.
"We are encouraged that sportsmen such as Rohit are coming forward to support the call for conservation. "His contribution to international cricket is well known and his supporting the conservation of rhinoceros in India will help the cause of the species. We welcome Rohit into the WWF family," said Ravi Singh, CEO and secretary general, WWF-India.