Endangered Rhino Population Grows Thanks to Covid-19 Lockdown

Officials say the pandemic helped the one-horned rhino population in a big way.

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Nepal's endangered one-horned rhino population has grown, in part, due to a nationwide, pandemic-related lockdown, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Over the past six years, the population has grown from 645 rhinos to 752 across four national parks, according to the country's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. 

"It’s great news for all of us who care for the conservation of rhinos," Deepak Kumar Kharal, the department’s director general, told the publication. “Covid-19 had a small but an important role helping the growth in our rhinos’ population.”

Related: What Makes Nepal a Silent but Brilliant Economy?

Conversation officials believe that the lockdown was especially instrumental in the population's spike, explaining that the shutdown of the nature reserves gave the rhinos more freedom to roam and mate. 

In the 1960s, the one-horned rhino population in Nepal fell below 100 at one point before the country carried out initiatives to protect the animals from poaching and keep their habitats in the southern region intact, the Journal notes. Rhino horns have long been considered prized in both Southeast Asia and China. 

According to AFP, the Nepalese government has carried out a rhino census every five years since 1994. That year, just 466 rhinos were counted. 

"The overall growth in population size is indicative of ongoing protection and habitat management efforts by protected area authorities despite challenging contexts these past years," World Wildlife Fund's Nepal representative, Ghana Gurung, said in a statement obtained by the outlet. 

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