What the deaths of 21 rhinos in six months really tell us

CHITWAN: Despite Nepal making headway in the fight against rhino poaching and marking zero poaching years five times since 2011, authorities are witnessing a major step back in conservation efforts of late.

In the period of six months from July to December, 21 endangered one-horned rhinos have died out of natural causes posing new challenges to conservation of the rare wildlife, Chitwan National Park reports.

The rhinos that fell prey to natural causes except those who died of old age are all below the age of 25 years and this is a worrying fact, according to CNP Information Officer Gopal Ghimire.

Moreover, authorities are concerned that if the mortality rate does not decline over the course of current fiscal, Nepal will lose 40 additional rhinoceros, a major blow to country’s wildlife conservation spirit.

As per the official statistics, out of the total deceased one-horned rhinos, 11 succumbed to old age, 10 male rhinos fought to death, two were trapped and died in a quicksand, one fell of a ridge and one died in labor.

However, downplaying the stats, CNP Chief Conservation Officer Bed Kumar Dhakal said that with an increase in total population of odd-toed ungulates in the region, it is not unnatural for the mortality rate to climb up. Moreover, floods of 2017 also swept away and killed rhinoceros in the region, Dhakal added.

Nonetheless, the deaths have driven stakeholders to initiate a study on the matter as park officials have now formed a task-force to investigate and pinpoint sustainable solutions to conservation.

As per 2015 census, the national park housed 605 one-horned rhinoceros out of which 78 have died till 2018. Prior to Nepal’s conservation success, poachers hunted down on average 24 rhinos every year over a span of four years lasting from 2000 to 2004 while similar figure of the wildlife died out of natural causes. In 2002 alone, poachers had killed 36 rhinos to make illicit gains.

However, Nepal is currently witnessing a long run of zero poaching days as there have been no such incidents since April 17, 2017. But a spike in mortality rate among the species is really demanding attention, as of now.


(Translated and Edited by Prahlad Rijal)