KATHMANDU: Nepal's only zoo has opened a new "honeymoon suite" for its two one-horned rhinos in the hope of persuading the endangered pair to breed for the first time.
Kancha, 20, and 22-year-old Kanchi have lived together in captivity for most of their adult lives, but have never bred -- something the zoo's manager Sarita Jnawali attributes to the quality of their enclosure.
She hopes that their new, much larger home, which features mud rather than concrete floors and two large ponds for them to wallow in, will persuade them to finally start mating.
"As far as we can tell, Kancha and Kanchi have never mated," Jnawali told AFP on Friday.
"Before, we didn't have the proper facilities for the rhinos to breed, and we hope this new enclosure will help us to increase species numbers."
Thousands of one-horned rhinos once roamed the plains of Nepal and northern India, but their numbers have dwindled in recent decades as they have fallen victim to poaching and human encroachment on their habitat.
The animal's horn is highly valued as an aphrodisiac in China, and a single one can fetch as much as 14,000 dollars on the international black market.
Experts say Nepal's rhino population fell dramatically during the 10-year Maoist rebellion that ended in 2006, as army guards stationed in wildlife reserves to deter poachers left to fight the rebels.
Only around 435 remain in Nepal, Jnawali said.
Nepal's zoo relies solely on a 50-rupee (67-cent) entry charge for funding, and a local bank that uses the one-horned rhino as its logo covered the 1.5 million rupee cost of the new enclosure.
Ace Development Bank chief executive Siddhant Raj Pandey has dubbed the new enclosure the rhino "honeymoon suite".
"We learned that the reason these two had not bred was their environment so we decided to build them a new enclosure," he told AFP. "We understand there are signs of them becoming quite amorous."