Light at the end of the tunnel
There are currently five recognised species of rhino, three of which are found in Asia and two in Africa. All rhino species are poached for their horns, which are sold on the black market for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Despite being made of keratin, the same protein as that found in human hair and nails, rhino horn is sold for a staggering amount, and gram for gram is currently twice as expensive as gold.
With the number of rhinos lost to poachers in a single year in South Africa rising to a record 448 in 2011, the good news from Nepal is extremely welcome.
Nepal is home to approximately 534 of the worldâ€™s 2,500 Indian rhinos, the remainder of which are found in India. Also known as the greater one-horned rhino, the Indian rhino is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Rhinos on the brink
With three of the worldâ€™s five rhino species classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, conservation efforts are more important than ever. Sadly, 2011 also brought with it the news of the extinction of two rhino subspecies, the Vietnamese rhino and the western black rhino.
Yet the latest news from Nepal demonstrates how well-managed, targeted conservation action can contribute to the survival of a species. Asian species expert at WWF, Barney Long, is pleased with the results of the conservation efforts in Nepal, â€œThis is the first time in 29 years that Nepal has gone an entire year without a single poached rhino, and itâ€™s a testament to the efforts of the Government of Nepal, WWF and many partners.â€
A positive approach
Mr Long hopes that the success of rhino conservation in Nepal, which has contributed to an increase in Indian rhino numbers, will spread further afield in the coming months, â€œWe hope the new year will bring additional good news from other countries like South Africa as they continue to crack down on rhino poaching.â€