Rhino birth a “miracle” for animals that survived Nepal civil war

Conservationists are celebrating the arrival of the first rhino calf to be born in Bardia National Park, Nepal, since poaching was halted almost two years ago, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said today.

The greater one-horned rhino calf was spotted with its mother by conservationists on a recent elephant-back patrol, ZSL said in a news release accompanying this photo.


Photo of the new greater one-horned rhino calf in Nepal courtesy of Zoological Society of London.

ZSL is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity. It runs two zoos, including London Zoo, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology, and is involved in field conservation internationally.

Supported by experts from ZSL and a grant from the Darwin Initiative, systematic anti-poaching and monitoring patrols are carried out by Nepal’s Department for National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) to protect the country’s vulnerable rhinos, ZSL said.

Indian rhino facts.jpg

Intensive poaching

“Nepal’s rhino population has been subjected to intensive poaching over the past decade as the country was gripped by civil war. Now less than 450 rhino remain in three populations in Bardia and Chitwan National Parks, and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve.

“The birth of calves is a strong indicator that the patrols are bringing much-needed stability to the country’s rhino population.”

Rajan Amin, senior field conservation biologist at ZSL, said: “With so few rhino left in Nepal, every new calf is crucial to securing the long-term survival of the species. The rhino also act as an umbrella species for the grassland ecosystem; by conserving them, we’re protecting the whole ecosystem which services other species–including ourselves.”

Elephant-back patrols

Elephant-back patrol teams have also seen success in Chitwan National Park, where a female calf was recently rescued after being separated from its mother during the monsoon, ZSL added.

“The female calf was found marooned on a dead tree in the middle of the Narayani River with a broken leg. Staff from DNPWC transported the two-foot-high calf back to the Park headquarters in Kasara where she is being treated by a combined veterinary team from the Park and NTNC.”

“The future of the greater one-horned rhino is of critical importance to the Government of Nepal. As a flagship species it is serving as a rallying point for conservation, capturing the attention of our people and helping to generate much needed funds,” said Gopal Updhayay, the director general of DNPWC.

In addition to poaching, Nepal’s rhino population is facing pressure from habitat degradation, invasive alien plant species and human-wildlife conflict, ZSL said.

“There is no quick solution for the greater one-horned rhino, but we’re committed to their long-term protection.”

“There is no quick solution for the greater one-horned rhino, but we’re committed to their long-term protection,” said Naresh Subedi of NTNC. “The elephant-back patrols, combined with improved habitat management, raising awareness of the threats facing them through community art projects, and providing local people with alternative livelihoods are all helping to ease the pressure on these iconic animals.”

ZSL collaborates with the following partners on its greater one-horned rhino, grassland, and community engagement project: Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal Army, National Trust for Nature Conservation Nepal, WWF Nepal, CABI, Elephant Care International and Tufts University on Health, South African National Parks, IUCN African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups, Theatre for Africa, Earthbeat Nepal, AWELY and Defra.

Sometimes called the Indian rhinoceros, the species, Rhinoceros unicornis, is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable. According to the IUCN assessment of Rhinoceros unicornis (2008), populations are increasing overall due to strict protection, especially in India.

Continuing decline in habitat a threat

“However, some populations are decreasing, especially in Nepal and parts of northeastern India,” IUCN’s assessment states. “The species is currently confined to fewer than ten sites. There is a continuing decline in the quality of habitat, projected to continue into the future, which, if not addressed, will affect the long-term survival of some of the smaller populations, and could jeopardize the further recovery of the species.

“Its populations are also severely fragmented, and with over 70 percent of the population in Kaziranga National Park [in India], a catastrophic event there could have a devastating impact on the status of the species.”

Posted by David Braun from media materials submitted by ZSL and from information on the IUCN page for Rhinoceros unicornis and the National Geographic profile page for Indian rhinoceros.

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Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn