Great One-horned Rhinoceros is in dire straits in Nepal

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Canberra, September 20 : South Asia's tourism industry is in jeopardy, with reports indicating that the endangered Great One-horned Rhinoceros is in dire straits in Nepal.

According to a report carried out in, the Rhino is being driven out of its natural habitat in search of food into the hands of illegal poachers.

A meeting of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group in Nepal said that the massive animal's feeding grounds were being invaded by "exotic species" of weeds and wild plants and the rhino could soon run out of natural fodder. "Grassland is being invaded by weeds and other unwanted plants that are not suitable for rhinos," Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, co-chairman of the group said from the Chitwan National Park, home to 408 rhinos. "We have to concentrate on how best to control the weeds and for this we have to intensify research," he added. The endangered animal, whose numbers have been rising in Nepal and India, is found mostly in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, and in southwestern Nepal. "The weeds and wild plants are an exotic species and how it came we don't know. It is spreading fast in the habitat and we are looking into the reasons now," said Shyam Bajimaya, an expert with Nepal's national parks. Nepal's Chitwan National Park, located 81 km (51 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, is the second-biggest home for the rhinos after the Kaziranga National Park in the Indian state of Assam, which has 1,855 animals.

According to Talukdar, the number of rhinos in the Indian park has risen from about 1,200 in 1999, helped by a reduction in poaching. The rhino population in Chitwan was also on the rise.

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