Home Kathmandu Endangered one-horned rhinos fail to thrive in Central Zoo

Endangered one-horned rhinos fail to thrive in Central Zoo

A one-horned rhinoceros, along with its newly born calf, grazes in the field of Guthi area in Babai Valley on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. The rhino was translocated to the Bardiya National Park from the Chitwan National Park on March 5, 2016. Photo: RSS

Kathmandu, July 14, 2014: Being a rare and endangered species, the only zoo in Nepal has had only a few one-horned rhinoceros.

However, rhinos have not been able to breed inside the zoo even once since its establishment in 1932.

The zoo administration has often expressed worry, saying it had not been able to manage even a minimum space required for rhinos to mate and reproduce.

According to Ganesh Koirala, assistant curator at the zoo, a rhino couple needs at least five to six hectares, which is almost the total area of the zoo, to mate. “When female rhino comes into heat she runs covering an area of more than six hectares,” he told The Himalayan Times.

“These big animals have been unable to thrive as they have been kept in a crammed space.” There are three one-horned rhinos in the zoo currently and they all share a space of around three ropanis. While the biggest rhino Kanchha is 26 years old, Bire is four-and-a-half years old and Bange three-years-old.

Sarita Gyawali, project manager at the central zoo, said rhinos had failed to breed inside the zoo due to lack of adequate space. “We have managed to keep 105 species of animals and birds in an area of just around six hectares,” she said, adding that even other stranded animals and birds were kept inside the zoo after rescuing them.

Due to space crunch at the only zoo, the government has begun construction of a zoological garden in Suryabinayak a few days ago.

According to wildlife experts, male rhinos need a territory of at least 4 to 10 square kilometers for mating. A male rhino becomes mature in 10 years, while female rhinos become ready for mating in just seven years. They not only need more space but also more food during the mating season.

“The zoo does not have the natural environment for rhinos to mate,” said Dr Naresh Subedi, a rhino expert. When male rhino smells a female in heat, it keeps the female within the bounds of its territory.

Male do this by gently nudging, or even tackling the female, but should the female escape the bounds of the male’s territory, she is generally left to her own devices.

The male will do this for up to three days, or until the female becomes acclimated to the male’s scent. Males can become violent within their territories if a lesser male infringes on a female in heat.

In 1995, the government entrusted the management of the only zoo in Nepal to National Trust for Nature Conservation for 30 years.

Established as a private zoo in 1932 by the then Rana prime minister Juddha Shumsher, it came under the ownership of the government after the political change of 1950.

It remained remained under the management of various government departments before it’s management was handed over to NTNC on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee Birthday Celebration of late king Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in December 1995.