Conservationists in Nepal are celebrating two years without poaching, after a record period of 730 days since the last one-horned rhinoceros was harmed in the country.
The jungles of lowland Nepal are home to an estimated 645 rhinos, and numbers are slowly starting to bounce back after plummeting during the last century due to a combination of poaching and habitat loss.
Over the last year, the population of rhinos in Nepal has increased by over 20%, with the largest concentrations of animals recorded in Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park in the central Terai. Despite their endangered status, the rhinos are commonly spotted on safaris, and have been known to chase tourists through the elephant grasses that flank the Rapti River in Chitwan National Park.
In a statement, the World Wildlife Fund has commended Nepal on its conservation efforts, citing the country’s combination of enforcement and education as an example for other nations to follow. As well as using sniffer dogs and aerial drones to pursue and deter poachers and massively increasing the number of prosecutions for wildlife offenses, conservation officials have established ‘eco-clubs’ in schools across Nepal to educate the next generation of Nepalis about the threats facing the nation’s endangered wildlife.
The improving situation in Nepal stands in marked contrast to the situation in neighbouring India, where rhino poaching remains rife. A rhino was killed in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park just hours after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited on an official tour in April, the sixth fatality in the park since the end of 2015.
However, even in Nepal, rhino populations are significantly down from the levels seen at the start of the 20th century, with habitat loss being the biggest contributing factor. With humans and rhinos being pushed closer and closer together, encounters between humans and rhinos are becoming increasingly common, and a number of people have been killed by rhinos wandering into the middle of towns and villages. The future for Nepal’s rhinos will depend on supporting the interests of both rhinos and human beings in the coming years.