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SOS Rhino : In the News : War in Nepal threatens rare rhino

War in Nepal threatens rare rhino

  By Thomas Bell
The Age
Chitwan, Nepal
May 3, 2005

Nepal's civil war has allowed poachers to threaten the one-horned Asian rhinoceros, one of the world's most endangered species. In Chitwan National Park, home to the second largest population of the animal, numbers have fallen by 31 per cent to 371 since 2000.

"This is a direct impact of the (Maoist) insurgency, because the army has a dual role," said Dr Chandra Gurung, of the World Wildlife Fund. "Whenever we have political upheaval, poaching increases."

The threat from Maoist rebels to the 900 soldiers guarding Chitwan has caused them to concentrate their forces and reduce the number of posts from 34 in 2001 to eight today.

Last November two rangers, two game scouts and a driver were killed by a Maoist landmine in the adjoining Parsa Wildlife Reserve.

The one-horned rhino lives in the jungles that once covered southern Nepal and northern India. As this area has been taken over by humans, the rhinos have been driven into ever-shrinking pockets.

Dr Gurung said a rhino horn could bring $A88,000 in China, where it is considered an aphrodisiac and a cure for epilepsy, fever and strokes.

The Asian rhino was once considered a conservation success story. In 1973 there were only 100 in Nepal, but by 2000 the figure had risen to more than 600, with 544 in Chitwan and about 1500 in India, making a world population of 2100.

· Up to 10,000 Nepalese marched for democracy on Sunday after King Gyanendra lifted the state of emergency. It was the biggest demonstration in Kathmandu since the king assumed power.

- Telegraph

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