Two rhinos in Sauraha are wandering freely out in the open, worrying everyoneAccording to a 2015 count, Nepal is home to 645 rhinos, including 605 in Chitwan National Park, 29 in Bardia, eight in Shuklaphanta, and three in Parsa National Park.
When Rajendra Piya was having lunch at a hotel in Sauraha a week ago, he heard a raucous noise coming from the outside. Piya stepped out to see people taking selfies with a rhino that was lurking outside the hotel. “We too observed the rhino from a close distance and returned satisfied,” Piya said later.
For many tourists like Piya, rhinos are one of the major attractions of the Chitwan National Park. Most of the tuskers live in sanctuaries. But for the last couple of years, two rhinos have come out in the open, wandering in farmlands and settlements. While the rhinos might have brought excitement to tourists, they have brought fear and worry to local farmers and conservationists.
Of the two rhinos, one is big and another small, of about eight and four years, respectively, according to Harihar Sainju, a local who has arable land beside the office of the Regional Hotel Association in Sauraha. While last year his farm had mustard plants, this year it is left barren, for fear that the plants would be corroded by the rhinos.
“Many people get excited upon seeing the rhinos. They move closer and tease them. It’s something to be worried about,” said Ram Kumar Aryal, chief of the National Nature Conservation Fund, an organisation that works towards researching and rescuing wildlife. Aryal cited an incident last year when a group of men mounted the rhinos and posted photos on social media, that in turn went viral. The Chitwan National Park later punished the men.
Aryal guesses the rhinos have been roaming around settlements because of a lack of fodder in the jungles, and because they can get enough wheat and potatoes of their preference in the settlements.
“The rhinos roaming around settlements are relatively less dangerous but they might attack when you get close to them,” Aryal said. “So it’s best to not get near to them.”
Gopal Bahadur Ghimire, deputy conservation officer at Chitwan National Park, said the park has been contemplating on how to take the tuskers away from settlements and hotels.
“If we leave them somewhere else, they might return to the settlements, so we are thinking of a long-term solution,” said Ghimire. “For now, visitors should be cautious and stop going near the rhinos.”
This, however, is not the first time that rhinos have been spotted around human settlements. In January, a rhino with its newborn baby was spotted in Bahraghare village.
According to a 2015 count, Nepal is home to 645 rhinos, including 605 in Chitwan National Park, 29 in Bardia, eight in Shuklaphanta, and three in Parsa National Park. Of late, Chitwan National Park has seen a troubling rise in the deaths of rhinos, including 26 alone in the last fiscal 2018/19 and 433 in the past twenty years.