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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : November 1999 : Protection leads to overpopulation for Indian rhinos in Nepal

Protection leads to overpopulation for Indian rhinos in Nepal

By Kedar Man Singh
Agence France Presse
November 27, 1999

KATHMANDU, Efforts to save the endangered Asian one-horn rhinoceros in Nepal are proving so successful that despite poaching, park authorities have admitted to a problem of overpopulation.

Although at least 10 rhinos, which distinguish themselves from four other sub-species by their single horn, have been shot by poachers in the last 18 months, the population in two national parks has grown to 600, a third of the world's total. "At Chitaun national park we have a problem of overcrowding of the one-horn rhinos and we are, therefore, planning to translocate them to other parks in the far southwestern zones," Director General of the Wildlife Protection Department, Tirtha Man Maskey, told AFP.

Rhinos are generally solitary, grazing or browsing on grass and leaves, and require large territories. Their horns are highly prized as an aphrodisiac, particularly in Asia, with one kilogram of rhino horn fetching up to 700,000 rupees (10,234 dollars).

Maskey said that over the last 18 months 54 rhinos had died in the protected parks of Chitaun and Bardiya, south and southwest of the capital Kathmandu. As well as those shot by poachers, three were apparently electrocuted, a "few" were poisoned and for four their fondness for wallowing in muddy pools proved fatal when they were swept away and drowned in floods which hit Nepal every year. The rest died of old age, Maskey said. Fifteen suspected poachers had been arrested in the same period and if found guilty will be imprisoned for 15 years and fined 100,000 rupees (1,461 dollars). The Nepalese Royal Army, which guards the parks, has government orders to shoot poachers on sight if they are caught trying to kill protected species, which also include Bengal tigers, snow leopards and musk deer.

Maskey said the snow leopard population in the Himalayan foothills had also increased to 500 since anti-poaching efforts were stepped up. Two hundred of the world population of 5,000 Bengal tigers also live in Nepal, he said. "The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been financially helping the Nepalese government to set up anti-poaching units," said Maskey. "So far we have set up 15."

Nepal's forested areas, which make up much of the national parks, have dwindled over the past two decades. Until the mid 1980s 38 percent of Nepal was covered by forests, but that area has since shrunk annually and now only 29 percent of Nepal is wooded. All five species of rhino, found in Asia and Africa, are endangered.




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