(May 21, 2007)

Nepal starts rhino census

From Reuters

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal has begun a census of the endangered Great One-horned Rhinoceros population in a wildlife reserve where sightings of the majestic animal have become rarer, a national parks official said on Sunday.

Rhino experts riding elephants will be combing the Bardiya National Park and Wildlife Reserve, 320 km (200 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, where 83 rhinos from another reserve have been released since 1984.

Officials said dozens of rhinos, which face extinction in the wild, appeared to have gone missing from part of the reserve, the Babai Valley, in recent years amid nationwide violence sparked by a bloody Maoist rebellion.

"We'll look for the animals for two weeks after which we'll come out with how many of them are still alive, how many have been killed or swept away by rivers," national park official Omkar Joshi told Reuters by telephone.

"This will help us know the post-conflict situation."

Conservationists say rhino poaching increased after authorities closed down security posts due to threats from Maoists who targeted soldiers.

With the Maoists now in government under a peace deal, authorities have begun reopening security posts in parks.

Rhino parts and horns are in high demand for traditional medicines in China as they are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, wildlife experts say.

Between 2000 and 2005, the rhino population in the Chitwan National Park in central Nepal, their biggest refuge in the Himalayan nation, fell from 544 to 372. The Kaziranga National Park, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is their only other home.

Carbon dioxide emissions increased after 2000 »
« Invasive fish threaten South Africa's aquatic biodiversity

Issue 25

Sign up for Plenty's Weekly Newsletter