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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : April 2002 : Poachers Prey on Rhinos in Nepal's Royal Chitwan Park

Poachers Prey on Rhinos in Nepal's Royal Chitwan Park


By Deepak Gajurel
Environmental News Service

KATHMANDU, Nepal, April 8, 2002 (ENS) - Conservationists here are shocked to learn that 39 endangered one-horned rhinoceros have been found dead during past 12 months in Royal Chitwan National Park. The majority were killed by poachers, new information released by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) reveals.

According to DNPWC officials, 25 of the rhinos were killed by poachers, while nine died of natural causes. Two others were electrocuted and three were poisoned.

Of the dead, 15 rhinos were male and 13 were female, while the gender of 11 of the dead animals could not be identified, an official said. The missing horns and other body parts of most of the dead rhinos suggests that poachers are active in the national park.

Since the bodies of the rhinos electrocuted and poisoned were found intact, officials suspect those five rhinos were killed by the angry villagers living in the park's buffer zone because rhinos frequently destroy their corps.

Between 10 to 15 rhinos die natural deaths every year. "Dozens of rhino deaths annually is something to be worried about," says Tribhuwan University zoologist Narendra Khadka. "Effective measures have immediately to be taken to stop poaching," he urges.

One-horned rhinos are critically endangered around the world. Slightly more than 1,800 one-horned rhinos presently survive in the wild according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Nepali conservationists are worried about the growing number of rhino deaths here in recent years. A total of 42 rhinos died during 1999, while 23 rhinos were lost during the period 1997 to 1998, DNPWC records show.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Royal Chitwan National Park in the Terai, the southern plains of the Kingdom of Nepal, is home to 529 one-horned rhinos, according to a rhino census in 1999. Their numbers are up from a census conducted in 1994 which put the rhino population in the park at 466.

According to information made available by the DNPWC, there are 63 rhinos in Royal Bardia National Park in the western Nepal, and four in Royal Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve in the far western part of the country.

Covering an area of 1,000 square kilometers, Royal Chitwan National Park was established in 1973, with fewer than 80 rhinos. A government policy of substantial financial investment and strict conservation strategy has resulted in the increased rhino population.

Many experts say that rising rhino population can not be sustained in the limited area of Chitwan National Park, and the rhino habitat there is shrinking.

Though the Nepali government has conducted a rhino census twice in last eight years, no scientific study has been carried out on the sustainability of rhinos in terms of territory and the number of animals in Chitwan. But the increasing occurrences of rhinos straying outside the park and the abundant number of them everywhere in the park suggests overcrowding.

To keep the park from getting overcrowded with rhinos, officials have translocated 63 rhinos to Royal Bardia National park in the western Terai in the past few years.

The parks department is translocating more animals to Bardia National Park this year. "We will stop adding rhinos in Bardia once the number of rhinos there reaches 100, a DNPWC official said.



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