Rhinos and blackbucks translocated to Shuklaphanta are thrivingConservationists are elated with the successful relocation initiative in Shuklaphanta of Sudurpaschim Province.
An adult rhino was seen in the Ranital area of the then Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, which is now Shuklaphanta National Park, in Kanchanpur in 1995. Following the sighting, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation immediately conducted a feasible study to ascertain whether Shuklaphanta was a suitable habitat for rhinos.
The study hinted that Shuklaphanta could be a good habitat for rhinos due to the availability of pasture lands and ponds. Based on the study, the department made a plan to translocate rhinos to Shuklaphanta from the Chitwan National Park (CNP). Four adult rhinos, including a male, were shifted to Shuklaphanta in 2000.
According to the Shuklaphanta National Park (SNP), the rhino population increased to 10 by 2010.
With the success of the 2000 translocation, five rhinos including a male were shifted to Shuklaphanta from the CNP in 2017.
“Both translocations of rhinos in Shuklaphanta National Park were a great success. The population growth of rhinos is quite healthy,” said Pramod Kumar Yadav, the acting chief conservation officer at the SNP.
As many as 17 rhinos were found in Shuklaphanta during the rhino count in 2021. The ID-based rhino monitoring in 2022 counted 20 rhinos.
According to Yadav, the translocation of blackbucks is also a grand success in Shuklaphanta.
Conservationists are elated with the successful translocation of rhinos and blackbucks in Shuklaphanta, which is located on the south-western corner of Nepal in Sudurpaschim Province. “Rhino population is on the rise due to good habitats and grazing lands in Shuklaphanta. The continuous rise in the number of translocated animals at Shuklaphanta is encouraging,” said Laxmi Raj Joshi, chief of Shuklaphanta Conservation Programme of the National Trust for Nature Conservation.
According to Joshi, the increment rate of the blackbuck population is even better.
According to the SNP administration, as many as 42 black bucks were translocated to Shuklaphanta between 2012 and 2015. The blackbuck population has increased to 264 now.
The black bucks were shifted to Shuklaphanta from the blackbuck conservation area in Khairapura of Bardiya district and a mini-zoo in Nepalgunj of Banke district. The black bucks (Antilope cervicapra), an antelope species locally called Krishnasar, were released in the Hirapurphanta area of Shuklaphanta National Park. There are, according to the park administration, 87 males, 117 females and 60 fawns of blackbucks in Shuklaphanta now. The blackbucks are now kept in the fenced area of the national park.
Conservationists were initially worried as the number of the translocated blackbucks dwindled as males fought and died while females died of various diseases. “But the blackbuck population gradually increased after a few years. The blackbuck population has reached 264 now,” said Yadav. “However, it is still a challenge to increase blackbuck numbers in the wild. The national park will release them in their natural habitats shortly if their population continues increasing.”
Though translocations of wildlife to Shuklaphanta from other places has been successful, the translocation of swamp deer from Shuklaphanta has hit a snag. In 2017, two male and five female swamp deer were translocated to Chitwan. Five swamp deer—two males and three females—were shifted to Bardiya the same year. “Chitwan does not have a single swamp deer now. Swamp deer are sighted in the Baghauraphanta area of Bardiya now,” said Yadav.
Shuklaphanta is the country’s second youngest national park, after Parsa National Park, and is the main habitat of swamp deer. The largest herd of swamp deer in Asia can be seen in the grasslands of Shuklaphanta, according to conservationists. It is also the home of various species of animals like tigers, rhinos and 461 bird species.