Nepal begins count of globally threatened rhino

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After three years of hiatus, Nepal on Tuesday officially began counting the globally endangered one-horned rhinoceros.

Nepalese Rhino [Credit: Jim Epler/CC]

The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, with technical and financial support from the National Trust for Nature Conservation and WWF-Nepal, initiated the three-week-long count to update the rhino population in three national parks: Chitwan National Park (CNP), a major rhino habitat, and two others reserves – Bardiya National Park (BNP) and Sukhlaphanta Wildlife Reserve (SWR). 

The last rhino count in the country, conducted in 2008 put its total population at 435 with 408 in CNP alone. The other two reserves, BNP and SWR, recorded 22 and 5 respectively. 

A team of technical experts, scientists and dozens of elephants are used for the count inside CNP. 

New technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and camera trapping will be used for the study, said Shanta Raj Jnawali, the program director at NTNC. 

The beautiful but endangered beasts had perilous lives when Nepal was undergoing civil war because most of the security posts inside the park and conservation areas were displaced. The population dwindled further as poachers started targeting rhino horn, which is valued as an aphrodisiac in China, and is used to make dagger handles in Arab countries. The horn can fetch as much as $14,000 on the international black market. 

For the first time, the count will focus on the status of male and female rhinos separately along with the condition of baby rhinos and the impact of human pressure inside the rhino habitats, according to officials. 

The count will also study the status of habitats, invasive species and poaching. 

According to government statistics, since 2008 28 rhinos were killed by poachers, while 32 died natural deaths inside CNP alone. 

Author: Anil Giri | Source: All Headline News [April 06, 2011]

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