Thousands of one-horned rhinos once roamed the plains of Nepal, but their numbers plunged over the last century as a result of trophy hunting, poaching and human encroachment on their habitat.
The population decline was particularly severe during Nepal's civil war, from 1996-2006. However, since then the government has had zero-tolerance attitude to wildlife crime. Nepal had its first zero poaching year in 2011 and in 2015, the herd grew by 21 percent. It was a bright spot in the bleak world of rhino conservation: where, in the same year Africa lost a record 1,338 rhinos to poachers and in India’s Kaziranga National Park, which is one of the last strongholds of rhinos on the subcontinent, poaching is still common. 2016 celebrated the birth of a baby rhino and also celebrated two years free from rhino poaching.
The World Wildlife Fund says Nepal’s success combating poachers comes from a strong national policy that is implemented well at the grassroots level. By 2008, the government of Nepal had handed over approximately one-third (28 percent) of the country’s forests to local communities to manage, which has helped to save forests and wildlife, and reduce poverty. Community-based anti-poaching units, originally set up to reduce the level of poaching of tigers and rhinos, have quickly become involved in monitoring trafficking of other wild flora and fauna. Initiatives include increased patrols of national parks and surrounding areas as well as eco clubs to raise conservation awareness in schools. Nepal also uses innovative technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol parks and sniffer dogs to help in anti-poaching patrols.
However, in 2017 apart from numerous rhinos being displaced due to heavy rain and flooding, we lost a rhino to poaching despite the best efforts of our anti-poaching patrol.
After striding forward are we taking steps backwards?