Rhino census underway in Nepal
“The Rhino Count is aimed at determining the present rhino population and to provide guidelines for long-term conservation and management of this critically endangered species,” said Dr Sarala Khaling, Director of WWF Nepal’s Development, Research and Monitoring Unit. “It will also assess the effect of poaching on rhino populations in the park.”
The Rhino Count is conducted every five years to determine the status of the endangered greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis). In 2000, there were an estimated 535 rhinos in the Royal Chitwan National Park, with 73 in the Royal Bardia National Park and 4 in the Royal Suklaphata Wildlife Reserve.
Just over 2,100 one-horned rhinos survive in the wild — approximately 600 in Nepal and 1,480 in India. One of WWF's first initiatives in Nepal was to provide rhino conservation assistance to the wildlife sanctuary in 1967. This sanctuary became Royal Chitwan National Park in 1973. At the time, there were only around 80 rhinos.
The basis for identifying individual animals includes shape and horn size, folds present in the neck and rump, special body marking (cuts, scars, skin lobes) and any other special characteristics present on both flanks of the body. To avoid double counting, careful observations are being made to record both sides of each rhino observed. Special attention is being given to differentiate the sex among each rhino so as to estimate the population's sex ratio.
During the Count, each rhinoceros will be located and counted by well-trained wildlife biologists and wildlife technicians riding on 25-30 domestic elephants to aid their work.
"The method has already been proven most effective, practical and reliable to estimate population size of mega herbivores like rhinoceros," Khaling said.
Rhino Count 2005 is being conducted over a one month period by WWF Nepal in collaboration with Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation.
For further information:
Sangita Shrestha Singh, Communications Officer
WWF Nepal Programme Office
Tel: +977 1 443 4820