Preparations are on full swing to count the population of one-horned rhinos at Chitwan, Parsa, Bardiya and Suklaphanta national parks.

Though the government had decided to conduct the census some two years ago after a large number of rhinos were swept away by floods while their natural death rate had also increased at Chitwan National Park, the process had been halted for want of adequate budget.

This year also, the census was halted due to the nationwide lockdown.

The census was carried out in 1994, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2015 in the country.

According to the census conducted five years ago, there were 645 rhinos across Nepal. Among them, Chitwan National Park and the surrounding forest area had the highest number of 605 rhinos.

A male rhinoceros had died on November 28 after being injured in a fight with other animals while climbing Chure hill. With this, 16 rhinos have been found dead in Chitwan National Park and its vicinity so far this year.

Of these, four rhinos were killed by poachers. Although poaching has slowed down in recent years, up to 43 rhinos have died in a single year due to natural causes or accidents.

There is a legal provision of a fine of up to Rs 1 million and imprisonment for up to 15 years for killing a rhino and distributing or trading its organs.

Smugglers kill rhinos for their horns. The one-horned rhino is a rare endangered species. There are around 3,500 rhinoceros in some limited protected areas of Nepal and India.