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Concern over the increasing death of rhinos (Nepal)

Pratik Bhattarai, My Republica | October 22, 2020

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One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species. In context of Nepal, among the 27 endangered mammal’s species, it has been included and is a well-known flagship species having special donor interest and attention toward its conservation. This species is native to the Indian subcontinent and from Pakistan to the India -Myanmar border including Bangladesh, the southern parts of Nepal, and Bhutan. In Nepal, they are especially found in the alluvial grasslands of Terai near river basins.

According to the latest count conducted in 2015, there are a total of 645 rhinos in Nepal and Chitwan National Park (CNP) alone is home to 605 rhinos. The CNP authorities had made preparations to organize a rhino census this year but the plan failed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the census is now scheduled for next year. A total of 39 rhinos died in the current fiscal year due to some preventable and natural causes and five of them in the recent past two months. This is the highest number of rhino’s death from natural causes in a year in the country’s history after the armed conflict in the country when poachers had killed 37 rhinos in 2058 BS.

Hunting, Poaching, and illegal trade remain an undeniable threat for wildlife across the globe and it has pushed some of our precious species on the verge of extinction in the near future. The mysterious cause of death of rhinos in such a large figure has now become a serious concern for park conservationists. Fighting (between male rhinos), falling from a mound of earth, health complications while giving birth to a baby, illness, and aging are the factors reported for multiple rhinos death in this period at CNP.

Consumption of poisonous food which farmers keep in their crops to protect them from wildlife, swept of young rhinos by flood in the monsoon period are also the causes of death noticed in recent years. Experts have also suspected an increase of Miconia grass, an invasive poisonous plant, in CNP as a reason behind the unknown deaths of rhinos.

So with no exact cause revealed of the death, there is a need of conducting appropriate research to dig out the concrete reason behind the unknown cause of the death of rhinos. Despite these present challenges previously Nepal had been able to make zero poaching of rhinos against illegal wildlife trade and till 2018, we were successful in celebrating zero poaching year of rhinos on five different occasions.

These success stories have proven our well-executed efforts towards conservation and a unique example in the whole International arena. But now it has been a key time again to take the situation seriously and aim to find the unknown reason behind the death of rhinos, from the concerned authorities to establish a suitable habitat for this valuable species in our country till long.

The author is an undergraduate student at Institute of Forestry Pokhara Nepal.