Nepal’s rhino population increases by 16%—a sign of hope for the species

A greater one-horned rhino chews leaves in a verdant area of Nepal

Nepal’s rhino population has increased by 16%, according to the results of the National Rhino Count 2021—a promising sign for the greater one-horned rhino population in the country. The survey shows a population of 752, up from an estimated 645 counted in 2015 in the country’s Terai Arc Landscape.

Greater one-horned rhinos are found only in Nepal and northeast India. Populations across their range were once down to around 200 individuals at the turn of the 20th century, but those numbers have now rebounded to a total of around 3,700 in both India and Nepal.

This year’s count spanned nearly three weeks and covered the rhino range areas within Nepal, including Chitwan National Park, Parsa National Park, Bardia National Park, and Shuklaphanta National Park along with buffer zones and vicinities outside protected areas.

Nepal takes on the immense task of counting its rhinos every five years to monitor their status in the wild. The rhino count supports the assessment of management effectiveness in these regions and guides the nation’s rhino conservation strategy.

Population estimates are based on individual rhino information collected, categorized based on statistics such as sex, age group, and unique identifying features. During the process, trained personnel and technicians also collect data on habitat conditions, invasive species in the area, and human activities in the region.

“The overall growth in population size is indicative of ongoing protection and habitat management efforts by protected area authorities despite challenging contexts these past years,” said Ghana Gurung, country representative for WWF Nepal. “This achievement is yet another milestone in Nepal’s conservation journey showcasing the impact of concerted efforts of all stakeholders and providing the much-needed impetus to the global conservation community.”

The count was conducted by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in collaboration with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal Army, Buffer Zone Users Committee, Community Forest Users Groups, NTNC, WWF Nepal, ZSL Nepal, and other local organizations.