Nepal to count one-horned rhinos in wake of civil war
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
KATHMANDU, March 11: Nepal said Friday it will count how many one-horned rhinos the Himalayan country still has left after the rare animals were exposed to poachers during the country´s deadly civil war.
Wildlife experts riding elephants will comb the jungles of rhino sanctuaries in Bardiya National Park, Chitwan National Park and Shuklaphata National Park in the country´s southern plains in the month-long survey.
"We have identified fixed habitats inside the parks where the rhinos roam," Krishna Acharya, director general of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Department, told AFP.
The census -- the first full-fledged count of Nepal´s one-horned rhinos since the end of the civil war in 2006 that claimed 16,000 lives -- will begin on April 15.
The number of rhinos fell sharply during the Maoist insurgency after the government ordered authorities guarding the sanctuaries to leave and fight the rebels, officials say.
Their departure meant there was rampant poaching, officials say.
The rhinos´ horn is highly valued as an aphrodisiac in China, fetching as much as $14,000 on the international black market.
Acharya said he was hopeful that Nepal´s rhino count now may have increased going by the results of one survey conducted three years ago.
A count in 2008 in and around Chitwan National Park found 408 one-horned rhinos -- up from 372 in 2005 -- and the wildlife official believes the figure has risen even further.
"The census will help us improve their habitats and increase the numbers," Acharya said.