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 user 2005-04-22 at 11:04:00 am Views: 45
  • #9047

    <>Nepal Rhinos Dwindling Because of Poaching
    KATHMANDU,Nepal(April 05)-The population of the
    endangered great Asian one-horned rhinoceros in Nepal’s biggest wildlife reserve
    has fallen to 372 from 544 five years ago, mainly because of poaching, an
    official said Tuesday.

    A census at the Royal Chitwan National Park in the central
    Nepali plains, home to the second largest number of single-horned rhinos in the
    world after India, showed their numbers had fallen to the lowest level in more
    than a decade.

    “The decrease of rhinos is due to increased poaching,” said
    Shyam Bajimaya of Nepal’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation department
    who led the three-week census in March-April with the support of the
    conservation foundation WWF.

    Bajimaya told Reuters that poachers had killed 94
    one-horned rhinos since 2000 while the rest died of natural causes.

    Officials and environmentalists said poaching had become
    easier after a number of small security posts in the reserve were merged with
    the bigger ones because of a threat from Maoist insurgents, leaving the park
    less protected.

    The Maoists, fighting to overthrow the country’s monarchy
    since 1996, have targeted poorly equipped army and police posts in their violent
    campaign to set up a communist republic.

    Poachers sell rhino horns, hooves and other body parts to
    criminal syndicates producing powders and ointments for Asian buyers who believe
    they will cure a range of illnesses and increase sexual potency in men.

    “The horns are also in great demand by rich people in the
    Middle East who use them for dagger handles,” Bajimaya said, adding that a kilo
    of rhino horn fetched more than $10,000 in the international market.

    Nepal launched an aggressive conservation scheme in the
    early 1970s after the rhino population in the Himalayan kingdom fell to 108 in
    the late 1960s from 800 in 1950.

    Nepal has tough anti-poaching laws and anyone found guilty
    can be jailed for up to 15 years. Officials refused to reveal the numbers of
    poachers arrested in recent years.

    India’s rhino population has been steadily increasing after
    decades of slaughter with numbers now estimated at 1,500 thanks to conservation

    But poaching for horns is a threat in both Nepal and India
    and killing methods include electrocution, environmentalists say.

    Last month Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a
    police probe after more than two dozen tigers vanished from a sanctuary in less
    than two years.