Rhinos moving home in Nepal
Four more rhinos will make the same trek in the coming days – all part of efforts to move 30 rhinos to Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve over the next three years.
“The expedition is an important step towards creating a second viable population in the western part of Nepal’s Terai Arc landscape,” said Agni Prasad Sapkota, Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation. “Our bigger goal is to bring rhinos back to their historical number of 800 in Nepal.”
The rhino, an adult male, was first tracked and sedated in Chitwan National Park on 1 March. It was then fitted with a satellite collar and loaded on to a specially designed truck to transport it safely to the fertile Babai Valley in Bardia National Park, where it was released on 2 March.
The translocation, which involved the use of 33 elephants and a team of about 250 people, was led by the government’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation with the support of WWF Nepal, National Trust for Nature Conservation, the Nepalese army and local communities. The translocation was funded by WWF’s AREAS Programme, WWF US, USAID and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Rhino translocation in Nepal dates back to 1986 when the first batch of 13 rhinos was translocated from Chitwan to Bardia. By 2003, 87 rhinos had been translocated. However, in Bardia’s Babai Valley, where a majority of the rhinos had been translocated, almost the entire rhino population was wiped out by poaching during the peak insurgency period between 2002 and 2006.
“Nepal has come a long way since 2002 when we lost 37 rhinos to poaching in a single year,” stated Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. “While rhino populations are increasing, the government, its conservation partners and local communities understand the need to double efforts – rhino translocations being one of them – to build a better future for this iconic species of Nepal.”
Nepal achieved 365 days of zero poaching of rhinos on three separate occasions since 2011, and Nepal’s rhino population is in a growing trend with 645 rhinos recorded in the country based on the 2015 count. In Bardia alone, rhino populations grew from 24 to 29 as compared to the previous count in 2011.
This is primarily due to heightened security measures within protected areas; in Bardia alone, there are 33 guard posts that provide protection to iconic wildlife such as rhinos and tigers