RHINOS IN THE HIMALAYAN REGION
EMERGING THREAT TO RHINOS
The Greater One-horned Rhinoceros is one of Asia’s most iconic endangered species. Tremendous efforts and resources have been invested to protect their critical habitat, reduce wildlife trade and poaching, and educate communities about the importance of preserving endangered wildlife in Nepal. In fact, Nepal is successfully controlling poaching, yet rhinos are still dying.
As part of VIEW’s work in Nepal, we developed the Wildlife Health Information System (WHIS), a wildlife medical record database. This system allowed us to identify an alarming statistic; there was a 12% decline in the rhino population in just three years. Only two of these 62 deaths were attributed to poaching. At this current rate, rhinos in Chitwan National Park will go extinct in eight years. VIEW reported this finding to the Department of National Parks which initiated an international response.
Even before this information was discovered, VIEW had made progress in identifying a disease that could be a factor causing this increase in deaths. Through our established program and training, VIEW found the first case of Tuberculosis (TB) in a wild rhino. Tuberculosis is one of the most deadly diseases on the planet and 24% of the working elephants have contracted TB from people. While identification is the first step, much more needs to be done to understand and prevent future deaths.
ONE RHINO DIES EVERY EIGHT DAYS IN NEPAL
VIEW reported that 62 rhinos died in the past three years, with 60 deaths due to unknown or natural causes and only two due to poaching.
VIEW conducted a review of rhino mortalities in Chitwan National Park from 2004-2017 and found the largest mortality event of rhinos ever recorded that was not due to poaching. While the cause of death by poaching has decreased substantially since 2010, the number of unknown or “natural” causes of death has increased dramatically. Our report has sparked international attention and an investigation.
Told by Dr. Deborah McCauley
When local fisherman near Chitwan National Park found baby Bendi, an Asian one-horned rhino calf, he was very weak. The tiny rhino had a serious wound on his knee from a tiger attack and had been abandoned by his mother when he was unable to cross the river. The fisherman devised a crude leg wrap and brought him to park rangers. By the time VIEW founder, Dr. Deborah McCauley, reached him, he was near death. Bendi’s bone had been crushed and was seriously infected. This could have been a death sentence since a rhino in the wild that can’t walk or run won’t survive for long. Fortunately, with VIEW’s help, Bendi made a full recovery. We not only treated Bendi, but this crisis also became a teaching moment for local park professionals. Dr. McCauley shared her specialized knowledge and expertise regarding wildlife veterinary care with local practitioners. This transfer of knowledge will be essential to saving these highly endangered animals.
A TEACHING MOMENT
While treating Bendi, we trained a dozen veterinary students and field professionals on wound care management.
We set medical and nutritional protocols for Bendi’s care and future orphaned rhinos.
Little is known about rhino calf health. We monitored Bendi’s health status to measure what is normal.