This year’s National Rhino Count in Nepal showed a promising gain in the odd-toed ungulates. The 2021 numbers are up 16% for a total of 752 rhinos, according to results released by Nepal’s government this week.
The rhino count started on March 22 and ran through April 10. It covered popular rhino ranging areas such as Parsa, Chitwan, Bardia and Shuklaphanta National Parks as well as their outside protected areas and buffer zones. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation led the count and used 350 technicians and other personnel and 57 elephants to methodically search for rhinos. They based their population estimates on data collected on age group, sex and identifying features, and the team also gathered data on invasive species, human activities and habitat conditions.
Nepal’s one-horned rhinos have long been killed and tormented by poachers, who sell their horns on the black market. An increasing human population threatens the rhinos’ habitat.
“The overall growth in population size is indicative of ongoing protection and habitat management efforts by protected area authorities despite challenging contexts these past years,” said Ghana Gurung, country representative of WWF Nepal. “This achievement is yet another milestone in Nepal’s conservation journey showcasing the impact of concerted efforts of all stakeholders and providing much needed impetus to the global conservation fraternity.”
In the 1960s, Nepal’s rhino population hit a frightening low of fewer than 100. But it seems the government’s conservation efforts have paid off. Nepal has conducted a census every five years since 1994, when it counted 466 rhinos in the country. The 2015 census found 645 one-horned rhinos. The one-horned rhino is currently listed as vulnerable.
Some conservation officials suspect the rhino population boom is linked to travel restrictions during the pandemic. The rangers in charge of the count said they saw more baby rhinos this year than ever before. “COVID lockdown gave the best environment for the birth and growth of baby rhinos,” said wildlife technician Bishnu Lama.
Image via Pramod Neupane / WWF Nepal