Nepal’s rhinos and tigers in decline | WWF

Nepal’s rhinos and tigers in decline

Posted on 31 May 2006
Greater one-horned rhino female and young, Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
© WWF / Jeff Foott
Kathmandu, Nepal – Recent field visits to remote areas of Nepal’s Bardia National Park have revealed a decline in rhino and tiger populations, indicating widespread poaching.

Field visits by WWF Nepal and park staff to sites inside the Bardia National Park – which have only become accessible since the ceasefire between Maoist insurgents and government troops came into force in late April – found evidence of three rhinos in the area, despite the translocation of more than 70 to the area since 1986.

“Given the probable growth rate over a period of 12 years, there should have been more than 100 rhinos in this area,” said WWF Nepal research officer Kanchan Thapa, who was part of the survey team. “This would be a viable population.”

In the late 1960s there were less than 100 one-horned rhinos left in all of Nepal. Thanks to conservation projects developed by WWF, Nepal’s national parks and wildlife authorities and others, the country is home to over 600 rhinos.

Despite conservation efforts, poaching remains a major problem. During the rhino survey, the team apprehended two armed poachers. Weapons and a large cache of ammunition were also seized along with more than 300kg of smoked sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, and four-horned antelope — all important prey species of the tiger and other carnivores.

The survey team also confirmed the presence of three tigers in the Babai Valley, down from an estimate of 13 in 2001.

In the past month, a Nepalese anti-poaching team in Chitwan National Park apprehended a group of six poachers with a tiger pelt and there were news reports of Maoists confiscating a tiger pelt from traders in the Parsa Wildlife Reserve.

“This is clearly a very disturbing situation, and one that needs urgent action,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International's Global Species Programme.

“But the good news is that the habitat in these areas is still largely intact. So if strong protection measures are put in place immediately, we are hopeful that the chances for species recovery are good.”

Since the survey, Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, with support from WWF Nepal, has already initiated a number of immediate actions, including more regular patrols in area. Community-based anti-poaching operations are also being mobilized.

For more information:
Trishna Gurung, Communications Manager
WWF Nepal
Tel: +977 1 4434820
Greater one-horned rhino female and young, Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
© WWF / Jeff Foott Enlarge