Kathmandu, January 8
A five-member team of Chinese conservationists has completed observation of rhino habitat in Nepal and urged the government to expedite the process of gifting rhinos to the northern neighbour.
The Chinese team had visited Sauraha and Kasara, the headquarters of Chitwan National Park, recently for observation of rhino habitat in Nepal. The team held discussions with officials of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation on January 6 regarding the rhino gifting process.
Joint secretary and Spokesperson for the ministry Prem Narayan Kandel said the discussion centred around the rhino gifting process and other bilateral issues.
“An understanding was reached that two pairs of rhinos would be gifted to China within six months,” said Kandel, adding, “The Chinese team completed their observation in Nepal and now Nepali team will visit China to observe possible rhino habitat there.”
The Chinese team studied local biodiversity in and around the Chitwan National Park. The observation included jungle safari, visits to Tamor Lake, Ghadiyal Breeding Centre and its surroundings.
“It was a typical observation visit,” said Nurendra Aryal, assistant conservation officer at Chitwan National Park, adding, “They did not discuss anything with us. After observation, they returned to Kathmandu.”
Until the Chinese team’s visit, the process of gifting two pairs of one-horned rhinoceros to China was in limbo. Earlier, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation had delayed formation of the team that was supposed to be sent to observe rhino habitats in China in August last year.
In August, the State Forestry Administration of China invited Nepali conservation officials to visit the country and identify a proper habitat for rhinoceros. The team had been invited to inspect rhino habitats in Shanghai, Hangzhou and nearby areas from August 15 to 21.
The government later formed a team in September and was preparing to send the tea to China, but the State Forestry Administration of China postponed the process at the eleventh hour on 15 November.
After identification of a suitable habitat, various technical formalities need to be fulfilled.
As per the 2015 census, there are a total of 645 rhinos in Nepal. Of them, 605 are in Chitwan National Park alone.
Chinese Forest Minister Zhang Jianlong and other Chinese officials had requested the Nepali side to gift the rhinos. According to conservationists, gifting of the rhinos to China would pave the way for future collaboration in wildlife conservation between the two countries.
A version of this article appears in print on January 09, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.