Safeguarding rhinos through ID based monitoring
Like all other wild rhinos in the ID based monitoring program, Lumsi Pothi was given an ID number and her distinctive features were documented. Individual identification of rhinos helps in monitoring the rhino population and reducing the risk of poaching. This process also immediately helped identify the presence of the new calf. Babu Ram Lamichhane, Conservation Officer, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), says, “We take particular care to record the individual features of each rhino such as sex, shape of its horns, scars or marks on its body, etc. Then, an ID profile is built up for each animal along with a photo, which we maintain in a database." Such profiling is a valuable tool for long-term monitoring of rhinos and also helps to determine the population size in a particular area. Twice or thrice a week, field technicians go out in the field to monitor the status of rhinos. Previous monitoring methods used to be broad and general, focusing only on the rhino population. However, in-depth ID based monitoring, also known as close monitoring, is much more scientific as it enables managers to keep a tally on the population dynamics and recruitment rate along with rhino movement.
ID based rhino monitoring was started in 2009 by NTNC in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. The Hariyo Ban Program is giving continuity to this work that has proved valuable for ascertaining the behavior and needs of rhinos. It provides useful information to increase our understanding of their habitat needs, and their preferred locations and habits – thereby helping to develop strategies for management of their habitat. Lamichhane says, “Habitat management basically consists of managing grassland, wetland and waterholes. Once we know rhinos’ preferences, we can make habitat changes to enhance their survival and security.” Applying data from Hariyo Ban funded ID profiling in Padampur, wetland expansion and management is going ahead, as well as removal of the invasive plant Mikenia micrantha from rhino habitat. Lamichhane adds, “ID based rhino monitoring does not give instant results. However, over the passage of time, rhino will certainly thrive in this safe and secure environment, as the monitoring will significantly help mitigate poaching, the prime threat to the species.”
NTNC’s Biodiversity Conservation Center through the Hariyo Ban Program completed profiling of 44 rhinos in Chitwan National Park. It is also carrying out ID profiling in Shuklaphanta and Bardia, where seven and 24 rhinos respectively have already been profiled. NTNC aims to profile 534 rhinos in the coming years.
Lumsi Pothi's calf will also soon be given an ID profile along with around 80 other rhinos in the eastern part of Chitwan National Park, which will then be closely monitored to increase their chances of survival in the wild.
By Richa Bhattarai, Communications Associate, Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal
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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.