Ramesh Pokhrel | The TrickyScribe: Rhino conservation in Nepal has taken a long journey. Once widespread throughout the lowlands, they were reduced to a few pockets by 1950s; only around 100 rhinos in all. Conservation efforts boosted the population by 1990s but the same took a toll during the political turmoil between 1996 and 2006. Rhino population is increasing; well beyond 600. Efficient park management combined with effective army patrols along with community engagement
Chitwan National Park (CNP) remains the stronghold of rhino population in Nepal. In its bid to reducing the vulnerability of rhino population to stochastic events—disease and natural disasters—NTNC in collaboration with the Government of Nepal and conservation partners have translocated rhinos to Bardia and Suklaphanta National Parks to create additional viable populations.
Periodic inundation by swollen Himalayan rivers cause regular flooding of alluvial plains along major rivers making conditions favourable for the quick appearance of sprouts and germination to maintain the dominance of Saccharum spontaneum, a variety of grass rhinos graze on, making monsoon floods very critical for rhinos. Oxbow lakes and other open water bodies are also important for rhino population as they spend about 8 hours daily in wallows or streams during high humidity periods (August-September).
ALSO READ: REPETITIVE WILDFIRES, NO LESSONS LEARNT
The greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also known as the Indian rhinoceros, is a grey giant, second only to an elephant in size weighing between 2 and 2.5 metric tonnes. Found only in South Asia and South East Asia, the population of greater one-horned rhinoceros was more than 3,500 of late.
The population of rhinos is diminishing feverishly with not more than 2,000 in the wild. Rhinos inhabit the alluvial flood-plain vegetation of sub-tropical climates where water and green grass is available all year. In Nepal, the rhino population was estimated to be around 1,000 in the Chitwan Valley until 1950. Rana rulers had used the area for leisure sport hunting making the areas inaccessible to general public.
Another factor that guarded the area from invasive human settlements was the rampant malaria in the area at that time. After the end of the Rana regime in 1950, however, malaria was eradicated opening the doors of Chitwan leading to deforestation, clearance of wildlife habitat for human settlements, agriculture and urbanization. Not only did this destroy the forest but also affected the wildlife; mainly the large mammals including tigers, elephants and rhinos. Rhino population dipped to as low as 100 in the late 1960s.
ALSO READ: PHTHALATES REDUCING SOIL FERTILITY
Recognizing the urgency to avert the erratic decline in the numbers of one-horned rhinoceros, Government of Nepal constituted armed Rhino Patrol Unit christened as
After painstaking joint efforts of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), the declining rhino population stabilized and begun increasing slowly. This proved that animal population can rebound in case sufficient measures are taken on time. It is an example of a population that was almost on the verge of extinction that has recovered while still maintaining a high genetic diversity.