While the tourism industry is striving to bring international travelers back to the Himalayan nation, uplifting news brings some respite and a sense of joy among the locals and tourism operating sectors alike. Yes, Nepal is in the news for the right reason!
As per the latest census, Nepal’s One-horned Rhino population has risen to 752, from 645 in 2015. According to Save the Rhino campaign by the World WIldlife Fund (WWF), Global populations of Rhinoceros have declined alarmingly, from about 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to 29,000 in 2016, largely due to an escalation of poaching for Rhinoceros horn. The current global Rhino population consists of three Asian Species and two African species.
In Africa, the Southern White Rhinoceros population is estimated at 20,700 and there are estimated to be around 4,885 Black rhinoceros. The Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, found in Nepal and India, has a population of approximately 3,555 whilst the other Asian Rhino species are confined to Indonesia and have much lower numbers; there are fewer than 100 Sumatran Rhinos and only 58-61 Javan Rhinos.
Poaching for the illegal trade of Rhino horn remains the biggest threat to the Greater One-horned rhino. Although there is no scientific proof of its medicinal value, the horn is used in traditional Asian medicines and unfortunately an extensive illegal trade continues throughout Asia despite protections and bans.
Despite all the challenges, Nepal has seen great success in granting better protection for its Asian Rhino and has turned the heads of conservationists and nature lovers around the world. Interestingly it just didn’t happen by chance, but by choice. It is one of the most pragmatic conservation models where law enforcement agents worked in tandem with the local communities to achieve what was almost perceived as a daunting task.
Out of total number of Rhinos in Nepal, more than 90% live in the Chitwan National Park (CNP), which is also home to Tigers, Elephants, Leopards and Gangetic Gharials (fish-eating Crocodile). SMART (Spacial Monitor and Reporting Tool) patrolling was carried out and on the population trend of Rhino in Chitwan National Park and the patrol data collected through patrolling logbooks was used to visualize the coverage of SMART in the CNP and its Buffer Zone. Tourists dollars spent in the form of National Park fees and other taxes are utilized in the most effective ways, meaning the conservation of endangered species would not have been possible without sustainable tourism practices in place.
Needless to say, the significant jump in the number of endangered species is a positive milestone in the Himalayan nation’s conservation efforts. All champions involved in this endeavor are to be thanked.
Perhaps this is the best time to be respectful towards nature and all species. When one respects nature, they live and travel in harmony with nature, and the practice of sustainable tourism comes out naturally, resulting in more success stories in the years to come.