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Monday, January 19, 2009

Rhinos census shows 408 rhinos in Chitwan National Park

Rhino poaching has been a hot issue from past few years. Though tireless efforts have been made at national and international level to discourage poaching and illegal killing of rhino but the killings have significantly increased in the years, luring vast majority of people due to its high paid up value. Nevertheless, the scenario is changing as in the year 2000 the rhino census counted 544 rhinos in Nepal and in 2005 the census counted 372 rhinos in Chitwan. Similarly, the 2008 census revealed that the number rose to 408 in Chitwan.

Laxmi P. Manandhar, Conservation Education Officer at the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) said, “The Nepal government in coordination with different local bodies like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), IUCN etc are working to raise awareness about poaching and we have even mobilized the local resource, Police and Army personnel in the operation. It is a joint effort in coordination to fight against poaching which is high on alert. At first we need to understand the real ordeal of rhino poaching. The thing is, it is considered that rhino horn is used in different traditional medicine and thought to have aphrodisiac qualities but in reality, its just a mere propaganda. Rhino horn in reality is a type of hair and since it’s rare so its value has gone up, other than that everything is false.”

“At times, we hear in Medias about the foreign involvement in poaching but reality is there is no such direct involvement found or seen till today. As in most cases Nepalese are the ones who kill rhinos and the agents out here export it to foreign market. So focusing that we have already started different levels of awareness campaigns,” added he.

On the query about the feasibility of infrastructure and equipment he added, “During the insurgency time, most of our infrastructures (security posts and towers) were destroyed or were damaged, so we have already started the renovation process other than that we are technically fit to deal with the problem.”

“In major of the cases, rhinos die due to natural causes and when found by villagers they rob the horn which again comes under poaching, as its horn is missing. Moreover, to overcome the whole issue of poaching the government should implicate strict rules of punishment where person found guilty should be strict punishment which would definitely discourage others,” stated he.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029 BS; any person directly or indirectly involved in killing, injuring, purchasing or selling protected wild animals or its products, including rhinos, or transferring rhino horns and if found guilty can be jailed for 5-15 years and fined Rs 50,000-100,000. Contemplating the scenario, currently there are around 100 accused poachers serving sentences in jails at different location of Bharatpur, Birganj and Kathmandu where as on the counter part the carnage is still on, highlighting the demand of rhino horn at national and international market.

Diwakar Chapagaine, Manager at Wild Life Trade program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said, “WWF from its side has been supporting the cause by every means. We have been facilitating the government with basic necessities of transportation, communication, equipment etc. Moreover, we have also played crucial role in community mobilization where we are coordinating with different community bodies to raise awareness regarding the issue.”

“Today the situations have changed previously when people didn’t knew the importance of wildlife but now after awareness they are more concerned. Reality is, if a rhino dies today then questions are raised from the different stake holders which has certainly discouraged poaching and other illegal activities,” added he.

Briefing more about the WWF plan he said, “In future we are planning to launch higher level of awareness campaign specially targeting the policy makers, as still today there are people at policy level who think and say, land occupied by forests are waste and it should be turned into field which certainly needs to change. The only option to fight against poaching is awareness and if better steps are taken now then we cannot secure the future.”

Recently on June 9, a total of nine poachers, including Nepal Army (NA) personnel who were involved in rhino poaching in Bardiya National Park, were trailed at the District Prison Office, Bardiya. The officials at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) said that all the alleged poachers were detained when their involvement was proved in poaching activities.
Likewise in another case on June 19, the rangers caught Pemba Lama, alias Yakche, during a search operation. He was carrying a rhino horn and Rs 460,000 cash, and confessed of killing 20 rhinos and selling their horns to Tibetan traders. As per the information provided by the Department, those arrested were NA personnel Jaya Bahadur Shah and renegades Om Prakash Chaudhary, Binod Shah and Om Prakash Basyaula. Shah was associated with the Raneshwor Battalion of NA located at Thakurdwara of Bardiya district.

Though, rhino poaching and its issue are highlighted daily in different medias but crucial role-play by the Nepal government stand out loud proving its effective measure and mechanism. The numbers increased have certainly given hope for this animal’s survival but on the other hand the rare species also has given a new scope and role for marketing Nepal with a new tool.

By Shreedeep Rayamajhi


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