Political Parties, Maoists, and the people of Chitwan unite to save the rhino
Sauraha, CHITWAN – There has been a rise in rhino poaching in and around Chitwan National Park in recent weeks.
On 27 July, an electrocuted rhino was found in Piprahar in Nawalparasi district. On 29 July, another carcass with gunshots was found in the Chitrasen Community Forest in Chitwan district. The female rhino was pregnant with a 15-month-old fetus and poachers had made off with the rhino horn. An injured pregnant female with a bullet wound in her left thigh has been rescued and sheltered in Barandabhar Jungle. This was preceded by yet another death of a female rhino on the banks of the Kageri River in Chaturmukhi Community Forest in Chitwan, which is frequently used by rhinos as a corridor. Search operations are underway to locate her seven-month-old calf.
The alarming rise in rhinos poached raised the red flag among park officials and locals alike. Of special concern was the fact that the recent poaching incidents took place outside the protected areas. At the initiative of the Buffer Zone Management Committee, Chitwan National Park, a two-day orientation and interaction programme was organized in Sauraha, Chitwan from 12-13 August, with support from WWF Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape Programme.
This was the first programme of its kind to bring together political parties with conservation partners and Chitwan National Park. Nearly 80 participants representing eight political parties including the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Buffer Zone Management Council (BZMC), Mirgakunj Buffer Zone User Committee, Youth Anti-Poaching Awareness Groups, Local Media, Hotel Association of Nepal, District Forest Offices, Chitwan National Park, WWF Nepal, and the Terai Arc Landscape took active part. They were oriented on the need for a new impetus to save one of Nepal’s most charismatic and endangered species, the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, which faces extinction because of factors ranging from habitat destruction to poaching. Dr Chandra Gurung - Country Representative of WWF Nepal, Dr Tirtha Man Maskey-Co-Chair of AsRSG, Mr Narayan Poudel - Director General of DNPWC, and Mr Sharad Rai-Director General of DOF were also present.
The first day focused on highlighting the issue through a field visit to the core area of Chitwan National Park. The main interaction programme on the second day began with an orientation on the past and present scenarios of Chitwan National Park regarding policies, biodiversity, anti-poaching operations, buffer zones, issues and constraints, resources, trends of rhino poaching and habitat, as well as WWF Nepal’s history and role in landscape level conservation. On the program, presentations were made by Shiva Raj Bhatta, Chief Warden of Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve and former Chief Warden of Chitwan National Park, Santosh Nepal of WWF Nepal and Basu Dhungana, Chairman of Mirgakunj User Committee. The participants took part in group exercises to identify areas for improvement in the overall conservation and management of Chitwan National Park, Buffer Zone management and conservation of mega-species especially the rhino.
The outcome of the interaction was a firm commitment from all participants. They decided to adopt a proactive approach and formed a Rhino Conservation Coordination Committee that will review policies and recommend amendments, coordinate among conservation partners and other agencies for financial resources, monitor rhino conservation activities, and organize district and other level rhino conservation meetings as and when necessary. It will also assess and review the practices of conservation at a local level, coordinate local communities and organize sensitization workshops for indigenous peoples and target communities, activate the Buffer Zone Management Council (BZMC), national park, and civil society for rhino conservation. The committee has six representatives from the political parties, three from the BZMC, two from partner organizations, and one each from the local media, Hotel Association of Nepal, FECOFUN, (Community Forests), Anti-poaching Youth Awareness Groups, native community from Chitwan and Chitwan National Park.
Importantly, representatives of the eight political parties also committed to rhino conservation. They said that they would sensitize organizations affiliated with them as well us all levels of the party. “Akash”, General Secretary of Nawalparasi district, added that anti-poaching efforts would not be successful if only the lowest levels of the supply and demand chain are targeted. He said that while the poachers should be disarmed there needs to be a major push to arrest wealthier middlemen and smugglers who operate from the cities.
In related news, Baburam Bhandari, the District Forest Officer, and his team at Chitwan arrested three poachers in Tikauli over the weekend on 12-13 August. One of them is Prabin Shrestha, the mastermind of the poaching operation who the District Forest Office has been investigating.
For more information: Trishna Gurung, Communications & Marketing Manager, WWF Nepal. 4438820.