Nepal’s endangered rhinos down a third since 2000
Preliminary results from government census figures reveal that the population of the endangered greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) in Royal Chitwan National Park has dropped from 544 in 2000 to 372 today – a 31 per cent decline in five years.
At least 94 rhinos were lost to poaching. Other causes of death included flooding, fighting, predation and age. Increased poaching is probably due to the reduction in the number of anti-poaching posts from 32 to 8, but a more detailed analysis is currently underway. The Maoist insurgency has led to a situation where it is no longer practical for park staff and soldiers with the Royal Nepalese army to maintain a large number of anti poaching camps.
The Census was conducted by a team of 25 trained field staff led by a scientist who swept the park on elephant back identifying and counting individual rhinos.
"Despite the best efforts of the government, park staff and conservation groups, a loss of at least 94 rhinos to poaching is cause for serious concern and concerted action is needed," said Dr Chandra Gurung, Country Representative of WWF Nepal Programme.
"It is essential that His Majesty's Government of Nepal implements a new anti-poaching strategy to expand protection to parts of the park that have recorded a drastic loss of rhinos."
The current rhino census was conducted in Nepal’s Royal Chitwan National Park, about 193km south of Kathmandu, home to most of the country’s rhinos. In the 1960's, there were less than 100 rhinos in Nepal. Concerted conservation action, especially anti-poaching efforts, pushed the numbers from 600 to 2000, with Chitwan alone having 544 rhinos.
WWF believes that despite civil unrest and the rapid decline in rhino population, it does not spell the end of the species, but in fact, highlights the need for even stronger conservation action.
In 2002, 40 rhinos were poached. The government of Nepal with support from WWF, then increased strict anti-poaching and community efforts, reducing the losses to 29 in 2003 and 10 in 2004. Without such measures, it is likely poaching would have gone totally unchecked.
"We brought Nepal’s rhinos from the brink of extinction once and we will do it again with the joint effort of conservation partners from around the world," Gurung said. "In addition to being biologically essential to Nepal’s Terai grasslands, the rhinos serve as an economic lifeline to local communities by providing millions of dollars in tourism income."
For further information:
Sangita Shrestha Singh, Communications Officer
WWF Nepal Programme
Tel: +977 1 4434820
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: +41 79 236 12 09
Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Press Officer
Tel: +41 22 364 95 54