Latest killing of two rhinos in Chitwan sanctuary alarms conservationistsAccording to Chitwan National Park, six of the 165 rhino deaths in the past five years were blamed on poaching.
Conservationists and animal lovers have shown grave concern over the deaths of two rhinos on the banks of Narayani river on Friday and have demanded better surveillance for protecting the endangered animals.
Officials at the Chitwan National Park and Nepal Army discovered two dead one-horned rhinos—a 14-year-old mother and a four-year-old-calf—at East Nawalparasi, in Madhyabindu Municipality’s ward 2, after the locals reported about the incident.
The poachers had decamped with the horn of the mother rhino.
“This is yet another horrible news,” said Rampreet Yadav, a wildlife activist who is also a former chief conservation officer of the Chitwan National Park. “It seems the incident happened due to a lack of alertness on the part of Chitwan National Park, security forces and at the community level. Had they been proactive, this incident would not have occurred.”
In the second week of December last year, two rhinos were found dead in Chitwan. A 15-year-old female rhino was found dead in Gundrahi Dhakaha Madhyavarti Community Forest and another one, a six-month-old male, was found dead on the banks of Narayani river in the Amaltari Kujauri Post. The infant is suspected to have been attacked by a tiger.
In January 2022, an 11-year-old male rhino was found dead in a freshly dug roadside ditch along the Bharatpur-Gondrang road section of the Chitwan district. Wildlife conservationists criticised the incident decrying the negligence of the Department of Roads and contractor.
Regarding the recent killing of rhinos, the postmortem report showed that both the rhinos were killed by electrocution, according to NCP information officer Ganesh Tiwari.
“The nature of the crime shows that they are professional poachers,” said Tiwari.
He said the endangered one-horned rhinos were killed on Thursday night last week.
“It seems that the poaching was done at night when the area was covered in fog. So, even the locals didn’t know, but we are trying to get information from the villagers,” said Tiwari.
He said Nepal Police, Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and the local communities have been deployed for further investigation. “This incident is a wake-up call for all of us,” Tiwari added.
According to data from Chitwan National Park, in the past five fiscal years, a total of 165 one-horned rhinos have died either due to natural calamities, electric shocks, by falling into pits, or disease. However, six of the total 165 were killed by poachers.
According to officials, Rhino horns are in demand in China for their use in traditional Chinese medicines and as showpieces in wealthy households.
The data showed that in the past six months, 11 one-horned rhinoceros have died in Chitwan National Park, of whom two were killed by poachers. So far in the current fiscal year 2022-2023, a total of 37 rhinos have died, of whom two were killed by poachers.
Yadav, the conservationist, laid emphasis on stakeholders finding the poachers and punishing them. Chitwan National Park, which was established in 1973, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Anyone found guilty of killing or poaching a rhino can face jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of up to Rs1 million.
Since achieving the target of zero poaching of the rhino in 2011, the country repeated the feat only on six occasions—in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The one-horned rhino, which is native to Nepal and India, is an endangered animal. Nepal is home to 752 one-horned rhinos and Chitwan National Park alone has 694, according to the national rhino census conducted in 2021.
Rhino conservation suffered the worst during the decade-long armed conflict between 1996 and 2006 when 157 rhinos were killed by poachers.