Nepal marked the 1,000th day of zero poaching of endangered one-horned rhinos last week, but celebrations were conspicuously muted.
Not a single rhino has been killed in Nepal in nearly three years, and the last recorded rhino fatality at the hands of poachers was on 2 May 2014.
In 2011, Nepal had celebrated a year of zero poaching in rhino conservation with much fanfare. But this time, even as it reaches yet another milestone, Nepal is not celebrating what is perhaps a bigger achievement than a year of zero poaching.
The Chitwan National Park (CNP) organised an event to mark this landmark, but the government and its conservation partners did not carry out any programs to celebrate the success. On last Friday, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) authorities flew to Chitwan, but not for celebration of a success in rhino conservation.
DNPWC Director General Man Bahadur Khadka told Nepali Times he was not aware that the CNP had held an even to mark the 1,000th day of zero poaching. “I was there to oversee the translocation of wild arna buffaloes from Koshi Tappu,” he said. “Not for the 1,000th day celebrations.”
The reason the government chose to downplay this new landmark in rhino conservation could be because of the death of a rhino in August 2016, possibly by poachers. That rhino was believed to have died in Rautahat after being shot by poachers in the CNP.But CNP warden Ram Chandra Kandel claimed the rhino was not shot in Chitwan, and not possibly by poachers because its prized horn was still intact.
The Chitwan National Park is home to 605 of the total 645 rhinos in Nepal. Other 40 rhinos have been scattered across Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Bardiya and Shuklaphanta national parks. Nepal had more than 800 rhinos in the early 1990s, but lost 200 of them to poaching during the Maoist insurgency when the Army guarding the park was distracted by the war, and poachers roamed freely sometimes in connivance with rebels. During the height of insurgency, as many as 35 rhinos were killed by poachers in just a year, and their horns smuggled to China.
Poaching continued unabated even after the end of the war in 2006, but Nepal has been able to curb it significantly in the last six years. After celebrating a year of zero poaching in 2011, only three rhinos have been killed by poachers, one each in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Puspa Pandey of the WWF Nepal says: “The success in rhino conservation is mainly because of community involvement, more efficient coordination between enforcement agencies and the use of cutting-edge technology.”
Om Astha Rai
Horns of Rhino, Rameshwor Bohora
Baby rhino in danger, Tirtha Bahadur Shrestha
The no-horned Asiatic rhinoceros, P Ghimire
Rhinos on the run, Hemlata Rai
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