Good News for Rhinos From an Unexpected Place

Nepal’s greater one-horned rhino population grows as poaching is eliminated.

One-horned rhinoceros calf near Kathmandu. (Photo: Prakash Mathema/Getty Images)

May 7, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

For rhinos—a species being hunted to extinction—any good news is welcome news.

And the announcement that a rhinoceros population has increased 21 percent since 2011 comes from a place that could use some good news—Nepal, which was devastated by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake on April 25. Officials from the country’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation said that Nepal has 111 more greater one-horned rhinos today than it did four years ago, bringing the total population to 645.

“The encouraging results of the rhino count are a boost to Nepal’s conservation efforts, even while the country tries to come to terms with the devastating earthquake that shook the nation,” Tika Ram Adhikari, the department’s director, said in a statement.

The rhino habitat includes national parks and wildlife reserves in Terai Arc, a transborder network of protected ecosystems between India and Nepal.

The population figures were unveiled Tuesday, just two days after Nepal notched another year with zero poaching incidents—the third time in five years the country has gone without a rhino death at the hands of illegal hunters.

Nepal’s wildlife conservation efforts earned it the right to host the first-ever international antipoaching symposium in February. Representatives from more than 10 Asian countries gathered in Kathmandu to discuss the success of Nepal’s program and how to replicate its efforts in other parts of the world.

In the world of rhino conservation, the resurgence of the greater one-horned rhino in India and Nepal is a bright spot—as is that of the southern white rhino in South Africa, where efforts have seen the largest species of rhino go from a worldwide population of 600 in 1965 to about 3,000 today.

Through conservation (23 percent of Nepal is designated wildlife habitat), community outreach (more than 400 community-based antipoaching units are at work), government involvement (Nepal’s prime minister is on the National Tiger Conservation Committee), and border protection measures, Nepal has been able to reverse the trend of wildlife trafficking.

“This achievement is an example in resilience for a nation that lost 37 rhinos to poaching in a single year in 2002,” Anil Manandhar, World Wildlife Fund representative in Nepal, said in a statement. “Stories such as this provide a much-needed ray of hope for people to believe that although the ground may have shaken beneath their feet, they still stand tall, undeterred and driven to build back a country that inspires the world.”

Now, with much of the country still trying to recover from the earthquake, wildlife conservation organizations have turned their focus from rhinos, tigers, and elephants to supporting relief efforts to the most affected areas.

“As you can probably imagine, it’s a tough situation on the ground for our staff right now,” said Molly Herrmann, a spokesperson for WWF in the United States.