Army personnel hand in glove with poachers?

Kathmandu, May 17:

An official at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) said today that over 30 Nepal Army soldiers are caught every year for helping poachers.

“Every year, over 30 soldiers are caught with proof of helping poachers. They are punished internally,” Surya Bahadur Pande, under-secretary at the DNPWC, told this daily. Pande, however, refused to give details.

Around 5,600 army men, including technicians and assisting staffers, have been deployed in nine national parks and five wildlife reserves for over two decades.

The army men deployed in national parks and wildlife reserves may not be involved in poaching, but they are found to be involved in smuggling of forest products, Pande said.

“NA soldiers can shoot poachers if the latter try to dodge or attack defenders of parks,” Pande said.

“The accusation levelled against the NA is baseless,” NA spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri said, adding, “It seems somebody is trying to defame the NA for some reason.”

It may be noted that three NA deserters and one soldier were arrested from Maina Pokhar of Gola VDC on May 9 on the charge of involvement in poaching of two rhinos in the Bardiya National Park on April 3 and April 26. Animal parts and arms were also seized from them.

The arrested were identified as NA soldier Jaya Bahadur Shari and deserters Ramesh Kumar Tharu, Binod Shah and Om Prakash Basyaula. Army man Dinesh Chaudhary, allegedly involved in poaching, was killed.

“According to the NPWCA, the wardens of the national parks have the authority to investigate the case and punish the guilty,” NA spokesperson Chhetri told this daily.

Chhetri said, “The NA is committed to helping the government punish the accused as per the law of the land.”

He said the NA will not come in the way of investigation being launched by a warden of the Bardiya park.