Three rhinos found dead in four days in Chitwan National ParkPoaching may have decreased in the last few years, but natural deaths have affected rhino conservation efforts.
Ramesh Kumar Paudel
On Tuesday, two female rhinos were found dead in the western part of Chitwan National Park. In the eastern section of the national park, another female rhino was found dead on Friday.
As per the data available at Chitwan National Park, 43 rhinos died in the last fiscal year, with 11 dying in the past six months of the current fiscal year alone.
Gopal Bahadur Ghimire, assistant conservation officer of the park, said the latest rhino death was reported from Sukhibhar area in Meghauli. “The female rhino was around 30 years old. It might have died due to old age,” said Ghimire, adding that there were no wounds or scars in its body.
Park officials suspect that another 20-year-old rhino died of food poisoning in Tamasur area. “The rhino was found with plenty of mustard seeds in its digestive tract. Rhinos cannot easily digest mustard and buckwheat. This rhino might have suffered from health complications after eating mustard,” said Ghimire, who is also an information officer of the park.
According to the 2015 census, there are 645 rhinos in Nepal—605 in Chitwan, 29 in Bardia National Park, eight in Shuklaphanta National Park, and three in Parsa National Park. Conservationists are worried the number of rhino deaths has increased this year.
Ramprit Yadav, a conservationist in Chitwan, said, “There are many challenges in conserving rhinos, and it’s not enough with just a small group of people working towards its conservation. The entire community should be aware of the importance of rhino conservation and support its efforts.”
In the last fiscal year, the park had invested Rs13.6 million to upgrade and restore old ponds and water pits in the area. It has also invested Rs2.5 million to expand grassland area in an effort to give rhinos enough space to call their own and limit infightings among them.
But the rhino that was found dead in the eastern section of the national park on Friday died from wounds inflicted from fights.
Poaching may have decreased in the last few years, but natural deaths have affected the rhino conservation efforts, say conservationists. Madhukar Malla, chairman of the Chitwan National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee, said the concerned authorities should intensify their research to find the reasons behind the increasing number of rhino deaths. “Even though the park has introduced various programmes to reduce the rate of rhino deaths, such efforts have not been effective,” said Malla, adding that the park officials cannot clearly tell us the exact reason behind these deaths. “How will the study on rhinos move forward without data?”
The number of rhinos, which fell sharply during the 1950s and 60s, had started to pick up after the establishment of the Chitwan National Park in 1973. Rhino poaching was rampant in the past, especially during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006. As many as 38 rhinos were poached in a single year during that period. The rhinos are killed for their horns, hides, hooves and other body parts.
Under clause 26 of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973, anyone who is found guilty of killing a rhino is liable to a fine of Rs 500,000 to Rs 1 million or can face imprisonment for up to 15 years, or both.