“The population increase is exciting news,” Nepalese National Parks and Wildlife Protection Department spokesperson Haribhadra Acharya said on Sunday. “But challenges remain, especially to increase the habitat areas of this animal to allow this growth to continue.”
Thousands of one-horned rhinos once populated these plains of southern Nepal, but habitat destruction and poaching dropped their population to around 100 in the 1960s. Since 1994, Nepal has conducted a census every five years , to assess the efforts to protect this species considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
During the first census in 1994, 466 rhinos had been counted. This census, which had been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus, mobilized 250 people who walked the parks for nearly three weeks. The count was done using GPS equipment, binoculars and cameras.
“The rhinos were counted using a direct observation method, 100 meters away,” said Haribhadra Acharya. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which provided financial and technical assistance for the organization of the census, saw the population increase as a “milestone” for Nepal.
Poaching for the Chinese and Vietnamese market
“The general population growth is a reflection of habitat protection and management efforts by the protected area authorities in difficult circumstances in recent years,” WWF Nepal representative Ghana Gurung said in a statement. .
A total of 26 rhinos died in Nepal last year, including four from poaching, Nepalese officials said. Poaching is fueled by a high demand for their horns in Asia, especially China and Vietnam, where they are considered to be aphrodisiacs and used in traditional medicine.