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Pandemic helps boost rhino population in Nepal

Pandemic helps boost rhino population in Nepal
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The endangered rhino population in Nepal saw its numbers rebound in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic largely putting a halt to the world's tourism industry.

Officials with Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) told CNN that a manual count of the greater one-horned rhinos across Nepal's four national parks counted 752 of the animals, the first time more than 650 have been seen in one survey since 2000.

The rise in population was attributed by the officials to a drop in tourism, which allowed the national park habitats to remain largely undisturbed. Other factors including government-run conservation projects were also credited with the rhino boom.

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COVID-19 saw airline travel and tourism plunge to historically low levels as many countries instituted bans on nonessential travel.

"Chitwan [National Park] is a major habitat for rhinos in Nepal but we have translocated them to [other parks] to make an alternate population and [as a result] the population has increased in those parks, and in Chitwan as well," said Haribhadra Acharya, an information officer with DNPWC, in a statement to CNN.

"Because the tourists were almost zero, the habits were not disturbed," he continued.

While the good news was celebrated by conservationists in the country, Acharaya added that the size of the national parks would likely not increase meaning that officials would have to take steps to support the now higher population of rhinos.

"It is a challenge but we are managing the habitat intensively to support the higher density," he told CNN.