The number of one-horned rhinos in Nepal’s wildlife sanctuaries has increased by more than a hundred, marking a positive milestone in the Himalayan nation’s conservation efforts.

According to the results of the latest census, Nepal’s rhino population has risen to 752, from 645 in 2015.

Nepal is among only a few countries where greater one-horned rhinos are found. The animal was close to extinction in the last century, and its revival in Nepal and India is regarded as one of the greatest conservation success stories in Asia.

Of the total number of rhinos, more than 90% live in the Chitwan National Park, which is also home to tigers, elephants, leopards and Gangetic gharials (fish-eating crocodiles).

Following the population increase in recent decades, the rhino’s status has improved from endangered to vulnerable.

Nepali officials said the coronavirus pandemic had helped the animals and their habitat in some ways, as lockdowns gave the rhinos chance to roam freely without tourists following them.The rhino census was due to be conducted in 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. The counting is held once every five years to monitor their status in the wild.

Around 350 experts and forest department officials travelled deep into the forest for about three weeks to tally the rhinos based on a visual headcount.

The estimates are based on unique identifying features like sex, size, horn, ear shapes, and skin folds.