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SOS Rhino : In the News : Pakistan hopes Nepali rhinos will breed, multiply

Pakistan hopes Nepali rhinos will breed, multiply

  The Hindu Times
August 29

Pakistan hopes Nepali rhinos will breed, multiply

Thousands of kilometres away from their birthplace at the Royal Chitwan National Park, a pair of Nepali rhinos is at the centre of hope for conservationists and park authorities here as Pakistan is keen on reinstating the habitat of the animal extinct here. They are the only rhinos left today in the Islamic republic.

Nepal had presented the male and female pair of rhinos to Pakistan in 1981. They were just six and nine months old respectively. Lal Suharna National Park at the southeast of Punjab Province is the new home for the beasts, fascinating the visitors. Pakistan was one of the rhino habitats till the early 19th century.

"Nepal has been courteous enough to gift these rare species to Pakistan," Naeem Hasan, regional forest officer at the Park told The Himalayan Times.

Habitat loss and merciless hunting has made them extinct. During the Mughal era, rhino skins were used as fighting shields. The great one-horned rhinoceros were once ranged extensively across the plain of the Ganges, from the Indus Valley in the west, all the way to Assam and across the north of India to Peshawar, near what is now the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today, it is found only in India, Bhutan and Nepal which is home to over 2,400 animals thanks to the conservation success. Their number was only 600 in 1975.

"We are seeking to revive the rhino population in Pakistan," president of WWF Pakistan Mukhtar Ahmed told the visiting Nepali delegates of Nepal-Pakistan youth exchange programme, jointly organised by Syed Babar Ali Foundation, WWF-Nepal and WWF-Pakistan.

Park officials at the Lal Suharna National Park are desperate to see the female rhino breed. They were disappointed by a still birth a couple years ago. Every time they see these rhinos mating, their happiness sees no bound.

"We are so eager to see that the rhinos here breed," said Mohammed Zafarulla, block officer at the park who has been taking care of them for the past 22 years. "We have regular urine tests though it is a difficult task to collect the urines. We will carry the tests in October also,"Zafarulla said.

Some experts argue breeding is not favourable if both sexes had lived together for long. "They develop a sibling relation when they stay together and the female may be not ovulating while mating," Richard Garstang, technical advisor to WWF-Pakistan and a wildlife biologist, said.

"Introduction of more rhinos are essential to compete for mating and increase the chances of reproduction," he said, adding it would be a wonderful achievement for Pakistan and Nepal if they collaborate to revive the rhino population.

WWF-Pakistan president Ahmed wants veterinarians, eco-scientists, ecologists and experts to take account of related dynamics before beginning a serious attempt to revive the rhino population in Pakistan.

"We may invite experts from Nepal to extend cooperation in this regard or we can send our people to Nepal to study this," Ahmed said. "We would encourage the government of Punjab to work on this." Puskar Rajbhnadari, Royal Napali ambassador to Pakistan, said the mayor of Karachi Niamutulla Khan has recently requested him to help send one more pair of rhinoceros to Lal Suharna National Park. "I am forwarding the request to the ministry of forest and soil conservation," he said.