With her unrivaled topographical and climatic variations, Nepal is very rich in biodiversity. The country is home to a wide variety of floral and faunal species and natural ecosystems ranging from the lowland Terai to the high Himalayas. Although the country occupies only about 0.1 per cent land of the world, it boasts 3.2 per cent of the globe's known flora and 1.1 per cent of fauna species. The nation now has 12 national parks, six conservation areas and 13 buffer zones. The protected areas cover 23.39 per cent of the total land within the country. It is a matter of pride that the country has been able to make a significant progress in biodiversity conservation. Such efforts have been recognised in the international arena as well. The Chitwan National Park (CNP) is the first national park in the country. Sprawled over 932 square kilometres, the park is a habitat for a number of wildlife species, including endangered ones like the one-horned rhino and the Royal Bengal Tiger.
At present, the CNP alone is home to more than 600 rhinos. However, it is shocking that many rhinos have been dying prematurely in the park over some years. As many as 120 rhinos have died over the past four years. In 2018/19, some 43 rhinos died while the figure was at 26 in 2019/20. Fighting each other is said to be one of the main reasons for the increasing fatalities of the rhinos.
According to a news report carried by this daily on Sunday, a seven-year-old female rhino was found dead near the CNP headquarters at Kasara a couple of days ago. Of the three rhino deaths recorded at the park since July, as park officials said, two were caused by fighting. Seven years is considered as a suitable reproduction age for rhinos. A fighting takes place between the male and female rhinos when the male approaches the female for mating and the latter refuses. The male may sometimes attack her, which could result in the female’s death. When there is only one female rhino but more than one male in a certain area, the males also fight against each other to win a chance to mate with the only female. This also results in deaths of rhinos.
Rhinos, like tigers are territorial animals and shrinking of the habitat that leads to competition for the foraging area could be another reason for the growing fighting deaths of rhinos. Studies indicate that about 10 rhinos can live in an area of 10 square kilomtres only when there is enough water and grass for them. In recent times, the population of rhinos has concentrated in the western part of CNP. With too many rhinos in one place, fighting among them is possible for food and mating. As the habitat for the wildlife is gradually becoming smaller even in the CNP, necessary researches should be conducted to find out the exact situation. In line with the research findings and the experts' suggestions, necessary conservation measures should be taken to deal with the issues concerning food chain and movement for the rhinos. Many rhinos are also believed to die every year due to the natural disasters like floods and inundations. Three years ago, about one dozen rhinos were washed away by the Rapti and the Narayani rivers from the CNP. Thus, a comprehensive study and conservation plan must be in place to minimise the rhinos’ deaths.