Nepal to conduct, self-fund, rhino census in March 2020
• A planned Rhino census in Nepal was called off in 2019, after which wildlife officials failed to raise the necessary funds from donors.
• The country’s finance ministry recently announced that it would support a new rhino census in March 2020, with the government allocating 11 million rupees for a total of 16 million rupees ($ 140,000), the census cost estimates.
• Nepal has almost succeeded in eliminating rhinos illegally, but a large number of rhinos have died of unknown or natural causes in the country’s sanctuaries, adding to the urge for calls for a new census.
• The decision of the self-fund comes in the form of a census, the government promoting diversity of populist, nationalist projects.
Nepal government plans Rhino unicornis
Nepal government plans to conduct a census of more than one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) in March 2020, a year after the count was postponed due to lack of funds.
The calculation will be funded by the government, unlike previous years when officials relied on donors to fund the census, which cost approximately 16 million rupees ($ 140,000) of Nepal.
The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department earlier this year lobbied for the government to allocate funds for the count after failing to raise the necessary funds to carry out the planned census. As a result, during a recent budget speech for the new fiscal year, Finance Minister Yubraj Khatiwada announced, “A conservation action plan will be prepared, and a census will be conducted on rare wildlife species and on the verge of extinction.”
Mongabay reported that the government has allocated Rs 11 million ($ 96,400) for the count and would request that NGOs contribute the remaining Rs 5 million, Ram Chandra Kandel, assistant director-general of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department, told Mongabay.
The number of rhinoceros is dying of unknown or natural causes in Nepal, as the government declares. Since mid-July 2018, 45 rhinoceros have been found dead in and around Chitwan National Park.
Chitwan is hosting more rhino
The deaths have prompted calls to assess whether Chitwan is hosting more rhinos than its ecosystem. Officials say the new census is important because it will provide a clear picture of the population and its habitat and an indication of the carrying capacity of the park.
Until some time ago, department officials relied completely on various conservation-related NGOs to finance the census. Although Chitwan National Park brought in 290 million rupees ($ 2.5 million) in revenue in the last financial year, park officials do not have control over those funds. Half of the park’s revenue is allocated to support local communities, while the other half goes to the central government’s general budget.
The planned census of Nepal ‘s more than one-horned rhino had to close last year as only 60 percent of the required 10 million ($ 87,600) was raised with the support of donors.
The Wildlife Department tries to conduct a Rhino Census every four to five years to take stock of the population and develop conservation strategies. The final census was conducted between 11 April and 2 May 2015, and 605 rhinos were counted in Chitwan National Park, 29 in Bardia National Park, eight in Suklaphanta National Park and three in Parsa National Park.
The government’s decision to conduct the Rhino Census with its own funds fits in with the government’s widespread tendency to attack a populist, nationalist chord with the people’s. This is when Nepal surveyors are on the verge of completing the re-measurement of another nationalist favorite Everest.
A recent comment by Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, who came to power in 2018 riding a popular nationalist wave, suggests that the counting of rhinos is part of this push. Despite the obvious problems in Chitwan, expectations are high, as the Prime Minister has already announced that the country has doubled the population of rhinos in the last decade, a feat achieved between 1978 and 2000, when the population 310 Was reduced to 612.
At a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Kathmandu, Nepal ‘s Prime Minister Kp Oli told participants around the world how they felt about rhinos and Everest. “In the last ten years, we have doubled tigers,” he said (Nepal has actually doubled the tiger population in the last decade). He said, “We have doubled in this way. Do you know what Gaida is? You guys know Gaida by the name of Rhino. But rhinoceros are not rhinoceros, they are Gaida. I request you to remember this word, Guide. The Prime Minister also urged the delegates to call Everest by Nepali name Sagarmatha the Everest.
‘Nepali conservationists are now more capable’
But nationalism may not be the only reason the Nepal government first decided to self-fund the census to introduce systematic counting.Zoologist Mukesh Chalise, who has been active in conservation for more than three decades, says Nepali conservationists now have the necessary experience and training to manage the census. “In the past, we didn’t have the expertise to conduct counting, now we can do it on our own,” he says.
Mukesh Chalise says he was skeptical about donors funding the census: “When donors finance the census, they want to show that the population has increased and this raises questions about the entire counting process. ” Therefore it is important for the government to be funded for the census, He says. But members of the conservation community also point fingers at government officials who fear any reduction in numbers that would make them feel bad.
When the fieldwork for counting is completed in April next year. Officials are sure to work under pressure to make the number public.
Chalise also warns that the money should be used properly.”The department should use the funds not only to make headcounts but to promote scientific understanding of the species,” he says.”We want the money to be spent on housing dignities that come to see the count, nor do we want the money to be spent to encourage park employees.”
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