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SOS Rhino : In the News : Nepal court orders protection for threatened rhino

Nepal court orders protection for threatened rhino

  Scientific American
December 4, 2006

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's Supreme Court has ordered the government to increase security in the country's biggest rhino reserve after local media reported that at least 10 of the animals have been killed since July, an official said.

The prehistoric-looking Indian Rhinoceros has become a target for poachers because of its horn, believed to have healing and aphrodisiac qualities in neighboring China.

"The government should set up adequate security posts immediately and take effective security measures to protect rhinos," Babu Ram Dahal, a Supreme Court official, said referring to the order issued on Sunday after reports that the number of rhinos at the Chitwan National Park was falling because of poaching.

Conservationists say there were around 372 rhinos in 2005, the lowest in 10 years, compared to 544 in 2000.

Wildlife officials say poaching had become easier after the number of security posts in the national park were reduced because of attacks by Maoist insurgents fighting against the monarchy for the last decade.

The rebels have now signed a peace deal with the government and declared a formal end to the insurgency, and wildlife officials say this would help in re-establishment of security posts in the park.

The massive mammal -- scientifically known as Rhinoceros unicornis (the Great One-horned Rhinoceros) -- is found in the tall grasslands and forests of the Himalayan foothills and is native to Nepal and the Indian state of Assam over the border.

The Indian Rhinoceros has been one of the greatest success stories in conservation in the region. With strict protection from Indian and Nepali wildlife officials, the total numbers have recovered to 2,500 from around 100 about a century ago.

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