Five countries sign Chitwan Declaration for rhino conservation in Asia
Representatives of the five countries at the 3rd Asian Rhino Range Countries Meeting

Guwahati: India, Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Nepal have explored joint actions and set future priorities for the conservation of the rhinos in Asia.

This was decided at the 3rd Asian Rhino Range Countries Meeting held at Chitwan, Nepal from February 3-5.  The countries have signed on Chitwan Declaration for Asian Rhinos Conservation which has agreed on collaboration focussing on six themes- protection, population management, habitat management, research monitoring and information sharing, coordination and cooperation.

They have agreed to manage the populations of the Greater One‐Horned, Javan and Sumatran Rhinos with the intention of achieving at least a 3% annual growth rate in their populations through strategic actions.

Representatives from the countries shared country-wise experiences and best practices, initiatives, common issues and visions, explored joint actions and set future priorities for the conservation of the rhinos in Asia.

Prime Minister of Nepal Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda‘ in his video message urged all range of countries to cooperate and coordinate with development agencies to promote nature-positive infrastructure.

The meeting was hosted by the Nepal government and facilitated by the Asian Rhino Specialist Group of IUCN and supported by international wildlife agencies. This is the third meeting of Asian Rhino Range countries and the first two meetings were held in 2013 and 2019 in Indonesia and New Delhi, respectively.

The participants discussed threats such as poaching and illegal wildlife trade, preventing habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, biological population management, human-rhino conflict mitigation, wildlife health, strengthening transboundary cooperation and climate adversities. 

Bibhab Talukdar from Assam, who is the Chair of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group, also addressed the session apart from others. Vice-Chairperson of National Planning Commission Nepal Bahadur Shrestha, who was the chief guest, highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts of range of countries for rhino conservation.

On protection, the countries have agreed to strengthen the protection regime, intelligence gathering, and real-time sharing of intelligence information on rhino crime and its illegal horn trade.

They have agreed to the use of advanced technology including the use of forensic science to aid ongoing protection and surveillance to prevent the illegal hunting of rhinos. They have decided to cooperate to enhance boots on the ground for regular field vigil to detect and deter wildlife offences in Rhino bearing areas, with special emphasis on strategic locations, upkeep high morale of frontline staff through improved field facilities and incentive packages, enhancement of skills and capacity building of frontline staff including wildlife crime investigations and strengthening and harmonization of legal framework and regulations to combat wildlife crime.

They have agreed to encourage the exchange of Rhinos between the populations of same species in order to improve genetic health, explore possibilities of expanding rhino ranges within the country or between Rhino range countries for optimal population management and sharing of technologies and scientific knowledge to restore the species and ecosystems, including Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART).

On habitat management, there was agreement on improving habitat management techniques in rhino-bearing areas to maximise habitat suitability and expansion of its range, developing and implementing Rhino habitat management guidelines to ensure continuous availability of food, water and space for Rhinos and adopting wildlife-friendly measures in developmental projects to minimize the adverse effect on Rhino habitat and prevent fragmentation and degradation of Rhino range.

They have agreed to launch a special Rhino conservation program focusing on community-based initiatives in the vicinity of their Rhino bearing areas and the member countries also agreed that the critically endangered Sumatran Rhino needs time-bound recovery measures in the range countries and appeal to global communities to complement the effort, technically and financially, to secure the species.

The member countries, additionally, agreed to review the status of the three species of Asian Rhinos every 4 years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure the future.

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