CHITWAN, April 5: Counting of rhinos has started at Chitwan National Park (CNP) on Tuesday with the hope of growth in rhino population. In the previous census held six years ago, the number of rhinos was found to have dropped significantly.
The counting that has started from Bhalu Khola located along the park´s eastern border in Makwanpur district will last for over three weeks. Counting officials will ride elephants through the park and surrounding areas to conduct the census.
The first one-to-one counting of rhinos was conducted in 1994, while the last counting was held in 2008.
The first one-to-one counting put the population of rhinos in CNP at 446. In 2000, the population jumped to 544. But in 2005, the population was found to have dropped significantly to 372. Counting conducted in 2008 found 408 rhinos in CNP.
Officials expect the rhino count to have gone up by at least 50. The expectation is based on the fact that cases of poaching have gone down, while rhino habitat has been improved, said Assistant Conservation Officer Ganesh Pant. The expectation is also based on the previous census that put the numbers of rhino calves and young rhinos at 80 and 51 respectively.
Counting officials equipped with cameras, binoculars and GPS equipment have been mobilized on 40 elephants for the census.
A rhino can be differentiated from another based on skin pattern, tail, horn, ear and eyes. Counting officials will note these physical aspects of individual rhinos during the census. They will also collect information about rhino habitat and human pressure on the habitat. The CNP trained the counting officials for two days before mobilizing them.
Counting will soon be started at Bardiya National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Conservation Area as well, according to Krishna Acharya, director general of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
The 2008 census put the population of rhinos in Bardiya and Shuklaphanta at 22 and five respectively.
The one-horned rhino is a rare species. India and Nepal are its main habitat. Rampant poaching has endangered the species. The total population of one-horned rhino in the world stands at around 3,000.