news for a change… On May 2, 2016, the country of Nepal celebrated two consecutive years of zero rhino poaching. In fact, Nepal’s last recorded rhino poaching incident occurred on May 2, 2014¹.
The success of this achievement involved cooperation between Nepal’s governmental policy, its army, national park staff, their national police force, collaboration with national and international NGOs such as The World Wildlife Fund, and the involvement of local communities that live in and around reserve areas¹. Nepal has also cracked down on wildlife criminals since the creation of a national Wildlife Crime Bureau, and have employed meaningful prison sentences for poaching².
The Greater One-Horned Rhino had been reduced down to fewer than 200 individuals in Nepal at the turn of the 20th century due to sport hunting and loss of habitat. Today, thanks to conservation efforts such as what is currently occurring in Nepal, the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros has increased in number to more than 3,500 individuals worldwide³.
Although many other species and subspecies of rhinos around the world today are suffering from poaching, this work on rhino recovery in Nepal provides a glimmer of hope in a world that is experiencing unprecedented environmental crises and perhaps provides a blueprint of a possible way forward for the conservation of other wildlife species.
So far, the Greater One-Horned Rhino is one of the biggest success stories in Asia and has been the only large mammal so far that has been downlisted from endangered status to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List³.
Conservationists in both India (where there are other populations of this rhino species) and Nepal, along with the World Wildlife Foundation, are now working to restore the rhino population further into suitable habitat. Translocating the rhinos around to different areas of suitable habitat ensures sufficient habitat space for the animals and reduces the chance of overcrowding and disease breakouts³.
Heightened security measures and involvement from local communities is helping to protect the rhinos from further poaching. The released rhinos are fitted with collars and are tracked by biologists to keep an update on their health and safety status³.
As of May 2, 2016, there were an estimated 645 of the One-horned Rhinos in Nepal, which is the most of these rhinos ever recorded in that country³.
However, the poaching of African rhino species continues even today, so the work on their protection continues². Perhaps these lessons learned from the conservation successes of this rhino species in Nepal will serve as examples of what may help to reverse the tide of rhino poaching in Africa and of other wildlife species around the world.