CHITWAN: The counting of the rare wild animal, the one-horned rhino, will be starting from Monday. The rhino is being counted in various national parks of the world including Chitwan National Park of Nepal after six years. According to the 2015 census, there were 645 rhinos in Nepal.
The census showed that there were 605 rhinos in Chitwan National Park alone at that time. According to Chief Conservation Officer of the National Park, Ana Nath Baral, 161 rhinos have died in the Chitwan National Park and surrounding forest areas after the census. “Of them, six have been killed by poachers. A total of 155 have died of old age and some accidents due to natural causes,” he said.
At one time poaching was a major challenge for rhino conservation. Although poaching has been brought under control in recent years, deaths from other causes have risen alarmingly. In the fiscal year 2075/76 BS, there was zero death of rhinos due to poaching. However, the number of rhinos dying due to other reasons has reached 43, according to the park office. Smugglers kill rhinos for their horns.
As political instability increases, so does poaching. At the height of the armed conflict, poachers killed up to 38 rhinos in a single year in 2058 BS.
Rhinos are a rare endangered species. It is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 1 million or both for killing, buying or selling its organs.
The rhino census is starting from Ramauli Pratappur in the eastern part of Chitwan National Park on Monday morning. For this, Chitwan National Park has been divided into 19 blocks. “The enumerators sitting on the 40 elephants look at the rhinos directly and take details of their age, sex and other physical condition,” said Baral. He said that the results will be made public after completing the rhino census within 22 to 25 days.
About 200 staff, technicians and animal health workers will be involved in the rhino census. Although the rhino’s main habitat is Chitwan National Park, it is also found in Parsa, Bardia and Shuklaphanta National Parks. The census in Parsa and Chitwan, which will start on Monday, will start in other parks in a few days. The rhinos have been taken from Chitwan to Bardiya and Shukla.
According to Chief Conservation Officer Baral, the government had allocated Rs 11 million for the census last year. Rhinos are counted at three-year or five-year intervals. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the counting program was cancelled last year.