Only 31 rhinoceros were counted during a 10-day survey, from May 17-27, 2007 conducted in Bardia National Park, according to the national authority, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Nepal. The previous rhino census, carried out in 2000 in this park found a total of 67 rhinos - 37 in the Geruwa River floodplain, and 30 in the Babai River floodplain.
Since 1986, 83 rhinos have been translocated to Bardia National Park from Chitwan to create a new viable population. Five rhinos are believed to have migrated to Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India from the national park through the Khata forest corridor.
The acute situation of the conflict in the past few years greatly impacted conservation in the area when the 15 existing security posts were decreased to just 6 to cover an area of 240,000 acres. "The Babai River floodplain, main habitat of rhinos, saw no national park officials neither security staff for a period of three years. During this time a huge number of wild animals were poached," states a press release from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. Several additional posts have been reinstated since the restoration of peace in April 2006.
The rhino census was conducted by 12 researchers on individual elephants walking parallel to each other in a single direction on a pre-determined route to collect data along transects. The distance between each two elephants was about 330 to 650 feet and this helped calculate the area surveyed or swept in the rhino habitat. Each rhino observed was individually numbered and a merge figure was developed by combining age, sex, horn and body characteristics. The basis to identify individual animals included shape and size of horn, folds present in the neck and rump, special body marks (cuts, scars, skin lobes) and other special characteristics present on both flanks of the body. Special attention was given to differentiate sex among rhinoceros observed during census to estimate sex ratio. This census was supported by WWF Nepal and National Trust for Nature Conservation.
"The results of the 2007 Rhino Census in Bardia National Park will not discourage our conservation efforts," says Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. "If anything, we should all redouble our efforts to save this endangered species from the threats of illegal wildlife trade and loss of habitat."