Bharatpur, Sept. 24: As per a decision from the Ministry of Forest and Environment, two female rhinoceros – Pushpa and Anjali – of the Chitwan National Park (CNP) will be relocated to the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR).
The aim is to expand the habitat of rhinoceros in the KTWR as there have been no one-horned rhinos there. Preparations are underway to transport Pushpa and Anjali to the KTWR on September 27.
“Pushpa, who is four years old, and Anjali, who is three-and-a-half-year-old, were brought up in the CNP. Pushpa and Anjali were found stranded in the forest without their parents when they were only two months and one month old respectively,” said Ganesh Prasad Tiwari, information officer at the CNP.
Pushpa and Anjali were left in the wild on May 14, 2023. “We are taking steps to take the duo to the KTWR on the designated date,” added Tiwari.
The KTWR is also making preparations to welcome Pushpa and Anjali.
“An enclosure area is being prepared in Saptari district which is near the KTWR. We will let the two rhinos grow in a smaller area at first. Their habitat will be expanded gradually and be left in the KTWR when ready,” said Ramesh Yadav, chief conservation officer at the KTWR.
“Rhinoceros is a new member to us. We will do our best to make it a suitable habitat for them,” said Yadav. “We have heard that Pushpa and Anjali often visit human settlements as they grew there. We are taking steps to prevent them from visiting settlements near the KTWR,” he added.
Lack of male rhinos
While the government has aimed to create the KTWR as another habitat for one-horn rhinos, experts stressed that it was impossible without male rhinos.
“How will the number of rhinoceros increase in the KTWR if we only send females?” questioned Babu Ram Lamichhane, a conservation biologist.
Meanwhile, Lamichhane suggested that the authorities should prepare to relocate male rhinos in the KTWR until Pushpa and Anjali were kept in enclosure.
A female rhinoceros is fit to reproduce at the age of four.
“Pushpa, who is now four, often searches for a male rhino. She was in regular contact with a male rhino recently,” said Tiwari, CNP’s information officer.
Nevertheless, Haribhadra Acharya, chief of the planning section of the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), said that they had plans to transport male rhinos to the KTWR.
“Female rhinoceros need males because it is a biological need. We understand it and plan to send male rhinos as well,” said Acharya.
100 rhinos relocated
According to the 2021 census, there were 752 rhinoceros in Nepal. Of them, 694 were in the CNP, the major habitat of one-horn rhinos.
According to the CNP officials, a total of 100 one-horn rhinoceros have been sent to different places in Nepal from the CNP until now.
“For the first time, 13 rhinos were relocated to the Bardiya National Park in 1986. Since then, 91 rhinos have been relocated there,” said Tiwari. The other nine rhinos were transferred to the Shukla Phanta National Park.
“This is the first time we are sending rhinos to the KTWR. In the past, 13 Arnas (Bubalus arnee) were brought to the CNP from the KTWR to expand their habitat. But none of them survived in the CNP,” said Tiwari.
Security concern in KTWR
The KTWR is going to be a completely new habitat for one-horn rhinoceros, not environmentally, but in the context of security. Some researchers have also drawn similar conclusion.
“Human activities are rampant in the KTWR compared to those in the CNP. The number of security personnel deployed for the security of the KTWR is also few. Annual floods in the Koshi River is also a major challenge,” said Lamichhane, who is also one of the researchers who studied the feasibility of relocating rhinoceros to the KTWR.-TRN