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SOS Rhino : In the News : Rhino census starts in Chitwan

Rhino census starts in Chitwan

  By A Staff Reporter,
The Rising Nepal

KATHMANDU, Mar. 20: A 25-member Rhino Count-2005 Task Force headed to Sauraha northeast side of the Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP) Sunday to determine the present population of rhinoceros at the RCNP and its surrounding areas.

Rhino Count-2005 started from today in the collaboration of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation and WWF Nepal Programme.

"The aim is to census the present rhino population and to prepare guideline for long-term conservation and management of this critically endangered species. The Rhino Count-2005 also aims at updating the database of the rhino habitat for the development of time specific activities for long term conservation as well as to assess the effect of poaching on rhino population at the RNCP," a WWF press release quoted a senior DNPWC official as saying.

During the Rhino Count, each rhinoceros will be located and counted by well-trained wildlife biologists and wildlife technicians using 25-30 tame elephants. "Rhino count in the RCNP is estimated to take 25 days. To ensure accuracy of the count, whole rhino-range of national park including community forests and national forests outside the RNCP have been divided into different blocks - Sauraha northeast, Narayani west, Bander Jhoola, Bote Simara south and Tikauli north," said Shiva Raj Bhatta, chief warden of the RCNP.

The estimated rhino population at the RCNP, Royal Bardia National Park and Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is 535, 73 and four respectively as per the Rhino Count of 2000. The rhino census is conducted every five years to determine the status of the endangered species. "To avoid double counting, careful observations are being made to record both sides of each of the observed individuals. A special attention is given to differentiate sex among the rhinos observed during the census to estimate sex ration of the population," said ecologist Shyam Bajimaya of the DNPWC.

The basis to identify the individual animals includes shape and size of the horn, folds present in the neck and rump, special body marking - cuts, scars, skin lobes - and any other special characteristics present on both flanks of the body. "The census of rhinoceros population is being carried out adopting the same methodology used in 1994 and 2000 rhino counts developed by Laurie (1982) and Dinerstein and Price (1991)," said Dr. Sarala Khaling, director of Development, Research and Monitoring unit of WWF Nepal Programme.

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