Conservationists outraged after Chitwan rhino dies in roadside ditchRoads department blames contractor while Chitwan National Park plans to sue those responsible.
Conservationists and animal lovers have expressed concerns after a rhino was found dead Sunday in a freshly dug roadside ditch along the Bharatpur-Gondrang road section in Chitwan district.
The ditch was dug for laying a drainage system, according to officials.
The Chitwan National Park has said the rhino died due to grave negligence by the Road Division Office, Bharatpur.
“I call this death a murder because the innocent animal died due to the sheer negligence of roads officials,” said Rampreet Yadav, former chief conservation officer of Chitwan National Park.
Park officials said the rhino was around 11 years old male. Officials learnt about the death at around 3 pm on Sunday. Ganesh Prasad Tiwari, information officer at the National Park, told the Post on the phone that the tragedy happened after two rhinos had a fight and the loser, which was being pursued, broke the fence of the park as it ran, hit the retaining wall of the road and fell into the ditch. The rhino could not come out of the ditch as a rebar had skewered the animal, according to officials.
“We found blood stains on the fence. But further details will be known after a post-mortem,” he said.
He said the dead rhino has been buried by park officials.
The Road Division Office has been widening the road section to six lanes for the past one year.
“Why do they have to widen the road on the buffer zone of the national park and how can they leave open ditches,” questioned Yadav, 74, a conservationist and one of the founding members of the Chitwan National Park, which was established in 1973.
He said such deaths will tarnish the image of the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Yadav said he and other conservationists have on several occasions asked the Department of Roads to construct underpasses or flyovers for animals in the buffer zone.
The one-horned rhino, which is native to Nepal and India, is an endangered animal. Nepal is home to a total of 752 one-horned rhinos and Chitwan National Park alone has 694, according to the national rhino census conducted last year.
Sunday's incident has caused quite an uproar in Nepali social mediasphere.
Sandip Paudel @JpanandaJp tweeted: “Responsible authorities of the construction work have to obtain the responsibility of rhino death as well.”
Another Twitter user Kewal Pokhrel @Kewal4307 quote tweeted a Twitter post containing the picture of the dead rhino and wrote: “It is not the death of rhino but it is the murder. Who is responsible @RenuDahal2?” Renu Dahal is the mayor of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, but the Twitter handle mentioned in Pokhrel’s tweet in an attempt to draw the mayor’s attention does not belong to Dahal.
Meanwhile, Shiva Khanal, information officer of the Department of Roads blamed the contractor for the rhino’s death. “The incident is unfortunate. Work has been ongoing in the road section for the past one week. The contractor should not have left the ditch open for so long,” said Khanal.
Haribhadra Acharya, chief conservation officer at the Chitwan National Park, said they are investigating the death and plan to prosecute those responsible.
Anyone found guilty of killing or poaching a rhino can face a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 million.
Information officer Tiwari said as many as 21 rhinos have died in Chitwan in the past six months.
In 2019, a female rhino, aged 25, had died after falling into a septic tank at Tiger Land Hotel in Jagatpur of Bharatpur-23.
(With inputs from Chitwan correspondent Ramesh Kumar Paudel.)