Conservationists celebrate miracle rhino birth
Friday 3 September 2010
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 greater one-horned rhino calf was spotted with its mother by conservationists on a recent elephant-back patrol.
Supported by experts from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and a grant from the Darwin Initiative, systematic anti-poaching and monitoring patrols are carried out by the Department for National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) to protect this vulnerable species.
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.
Dr Rajan Amin, Senior Field Conservation Biologist at ZSL says: “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.”
The 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.
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 at a time of great political uncertainty, and helping to generate much needed funds,” says 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.
Naresh Subedi of NTNC says: “There is no quick solution for the greater one-horned rhino, but we’re committed to their long-term protection. 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.”