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Nepal Celebrates Two Years Free From Rhino Poaching

Increased education and a law enforcement crackdown has helped the tiny nation keep its rhinos safe for 730 days in a row

(Sumanth Kuduvalli / Felis Creations / WWF)
smithsonian.com

It may be just another Monday for most of us, but today is a big day for the rhinos of Nepal, marking two years since the last Indian rhinoceros was killed in the mountainous nation.

“It is now 730 days since a poacher last killed a rhino in Nepal: a truly remarkable achievement by the government,” Anil Manandhar, World Wildlife Fund representative inthe country says in a press release. “Nepal has demonstrated real conservation leadership and an effective anti-poaching path that other countries can follow.”

Nepal had its first zero poaching year in 2011 and has had three 365-day stretches with no poaching since then, giving its 645 rhinos some breathing room. Last year, the herd grew by 21 percent. It’s a bright spot in the bleak world of rhino conservation: In 2015 Africa lost a record 1,338 rhinos to poachers and in India’s Kaziranga National Park, which is one of the last strongholds of rhinos on the subcontinent, poaching is still common.

The World Wildlife Fund says Nepal’s success combating poachers comes from a strong national policy that is implemented well at the grassroots level. Initiatives include increased patrols of national parks and surrounding areas as well as eco clubs to raise conservation awareness in schools. Nepal also uses innovative technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol parks and sniffer dogs to help in anti-poaching patrols.

But the biggest impact is coming from its law enforcement efforts. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, which has 16 district offices, in particular is responsible for crippling the illegal wildlife trade. Laurel Neme at National Geographic reports that in 2014, ­over 700 people were arrested for wildlife crimes, and in October 2013, a coordinated effort by the army and police took down one of the nations most lethal poaching operations. That has helped quiet down poaching in the last couple years.

“There is very much a zero-tolerance attitude to wildlife crime, whereby justice is often swift and harsh,” John Sellar former enforcement chief for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species tells Neme. “Nepal's forest law empowers district forest officers and chief wildlife wardens to deal with offenders and impose prison sentences of up to 14 or 15 years.”

Nepal hopes to keep the streak going and recently announced Mission 2nd May 2017, an effort to stay poaching free for another year. While the country does not plan to lower its guard against poachers, the reduction in criminal activity lets them focus on other efforts.

“The zero poaching success has allowed Nepal to launch other projects to conserve its rhinos, including the recent translocation of five rhinos from Chitwan National Park to Bardia National Park,” Manandhar says. “Nepal has shown that countries can stop poaching and we are confident that its integrated conservation machinery will ensure that the rhino population continues to grow.”

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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