While the decade long conflict in Nepal did take a toll on the protection of endangered species like the rhino, the return of peace to the country has not seen a marked drop in poaching. This highlights the fact that the illegal wildlife trade has an entrenched network in the country. In the past 12 months, 19 rhinos were poached in Chitwan alone. In May, WWF raised the alarm on a drastic decrease in rhino populations and possibly tiger numbers too, indicating widespread poaching in the Babai Valley.
But the news is not all bad. Anti-poaching patrols and intelligence networks are garnering important results. In December, as many as 13 arrests were made—among them Raj Kumar Praja, a notorious rhino poacher who was escaped arrest on three previous occasions. Praja confessed that he was responsible of poaching of at least three rhinos in community forests in Chitwan. The search has not been confined to Chitwan alone. Arrests of rhino traders have been made in Kathmandu too. Police arrested four people with a rhino horn in the capital.
The alarming rise has led to a multi-pronged effort to stop rhino poaching in Chitwan. Enforcement authorities along with vital support from local communities have begun to make every effort to control of poaching in Chitwan. In August, local people, politicians and the Maoists banded together for the important Rhino Declaration 2063, which contained important recommendations and directives to save the rhino. The unprecedented release of nine rhino poachers by the Government of Nepal in September was strongly protested by WWF Nepal together with our conservation partners IUCN Nepal and AsRSG. In November, the Eco Club Network in Chitwan collected over 1,00,000 signatures to raise awareness for anti-poaching. This was handed over to Honourable State Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation Mr Dilendra Prasad Baru in December.
WWF Nepal has been a strong supporter of rhino conservation. At this critical juncture we have funded anti-poaching operations both inside and out of national parks. We continue to work closely with communities and youth groups to raise awareness and gather information against poachers. With the Government of Nepal in the lead, we advocate for better implementation of laws on poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
2006 may not have been the best year for the rhinos in Nepal but the New Year, 2007, gives us new opportunities to secure a future for this magnificent creature.
Please help us save the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros!