Four months on, process of gifting one-horned rhinos to China in limbo

Kathmandu, November 5

Although the government had decided to gift two pairs of one-horned rhinoceros to China four months ago, the process towards the same has yet to begin.

Earlier, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation had delayed the formation of a team that was supposed to be sent to observe rhino habitats in China, in August.

In August, the State Forestry Administration of China had invited Nepali conservation officials to come and identify a proper habitat for rhinoceros. The Nepali 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. But as it was preparing to send the team to China, the State Forestry Administration of China postponed the process at the eleventh hour on 15 November.

Ever since, there has not been any development in this regard, said Pem Narayan Kandel, spokesperson at the Ministry of Forest. “As the process has been postponed, we are expecting to receive further notice from the Chinese authorities,” he said.

According to the ministry, a team of six members comprising Deputy Director General of the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation Gopal Prakash Bhattarai, Joint Spokesperson at the Ministry of Forest Yajna Nath Dahal, Under secretary at the ministry Rom Raj Lamichhane, Chief Conservation Officer of Chitwan National Park Ramchandra Kandel, senior vet at CNP Kamal Gaire and Customs Officer at the Ministry of Finance Man Bahadur Paudel has been formed to observe rhino habitats in China.

The Cabinet had decided to gift two pairs of one-horned rhinoceros to China on July 10. After the identification of a suitable habitat, various technical formalities need to be fulfilled before gifting the rhinos.

The Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation informed that four rhinoceros from Chitwan National Park will be gifted to China.

As per the 2015 census, there are a total of 645 rhinos in Nepal. Of them, 605 are in Chitwan National Park alone. During former forest minister Agni Sapkota’s China visit in January, then prime minister KP Sharma Oli had issued instructions to forward the process of gifting the one-horned rhinoceros to China.

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.

It is the first time since 2007 that the government decided to gift wild animals to other countries.