Controversial ranger here, seeking room

WWF seeks anti-poaching steps

Kathmandu, January 25:

The ranger of the Chitwan National Park, Gopal Prasad Upadhyay, who decided to impose a minimum of punishment to a notorious rhino poacher two weeks ago, is in the capital. He came here looking for “justice” as staffer at the park boycotted him for making the controversial decision.

“Yes, the ranger came here several times, demanding that he be posted here. But we rejected his request,” Laxmi Das Manandhar, spokesperson for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, told this daily today.

He said Upadhyay came to the capital for “health check-up” but he did not know why the man wanted to join the office in the capital, adding he was not allowed to register his attendance in the department.

Ranger Upadhyay landed into controversy after he made an objectionable decision on notorious a wildlife trader, Pemba Lama “Yakchhe”, who was arrested on the charge of trading 18 rhino horns 19 months ago. On January 10, he sentenced some rhino poachers to five years in prison and imposed on him a fine of Rs 100,000. As per the DNPWC Act 2029, such poachers can be jailed for 15 years and made to pay a fine of Rs 100,000.

Government staffers claimed that Upadhyay also went to the Ministry of Forestry and Soil Conservation (MFSC) and other politicians seeking “justice”, but to no avail. An official at the Department of Forest said the employees’ association is organising protest programmes against the ranger.

As experts accused the ranger of taking bribes for making such a controversial verdict, the MFSC formed a top-level committee on January 23 to probe into circumstances in which Upadhyaya offered minimum punishment to the top-notch smuggler ever arrested in the country.

Meanwhile, the IUCN Nepal, WWF Nepal and the National Trust for Nature Conservation have raised objections against the controversial verdict and sought stiff punishment for wildlife traders. They urged the government to punish all involved in the incident.

They issued a press release today, asking the government to probe again the reason for providing only the minimum of punishment to the trader. The release also said the controversial verdict is a setback on joint efforts to break the nexus of smugglers. It also discourages conservation activists, the release said.

The Rangers’ Association of Nepal also released a press release, demanding that Upadhyay’s verdict be investigated.