Rhino poop gives villagers in India a conservation incentive

Rhino poop gives villagers in India a conservation incentive

The illicit demand for their horns and other body parts has pushed rhino populations in both Africa and Asia to the brink of extinction. In northeastern India, though, one father-daughter team is hoping another rhino product could help save the species: its dung. Based in Assam state, the global stronghold of the greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), an innovative company called Elrhino has for seven years now been transforming rhino waste into luxury paper products. Their goal, say co-founders Mahesh and Nisha Bora, is to make wildlife conservation sustainable by ensuring that local communities have a financial stake in protecting these rare animals. Father-daughter team Mahesh and Nisha Bora outside the Elrhino factory. Image courtesy of Elrhino. Too much of a good thing? The increase in India’s rhino population from fewer than 200 animals at the beginning of the 20th century to around 2,850 today is a global conservation success story. But this population growth has a downside: Higher densities within protected areas means that rhinos are more likely to stray out of parks and into villages, a source of concern for both the affected local communities and this vulnerable species. In a village called Rajamayang, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, farmer Kalicharan Nath is dismayed to find that parts of his rice fields have been trampled by rhinos that strayed into the village the previous night. He’s not alone. There are about eight small villages within 8 kilometers (4.8 miles) of the park’s boundaries,…

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