KATHMANDU: As many as 100 rhino poachers, who are now serving their jail term, will walk out of prison far before their punishment slapped by authorities, thanks to a court decision to minimise the penalty. As the Appellate Court in Heatuda on November 17, 2008 decided to minimise the punishment, more than hundred rhino poachers will be freed on June 2010. The judges —Girish Chandra Lal and Uddhav Prasad Banskota — had taken the decision. The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029 has the provision of Rs 50,000 to 100,000 cash fine and five to 15 years of jail term to the poachers.

“The authority of Chitwan National Park had decided to slap 15-year imprisonment on them on the charge of their involvement in rhino poaching. But as the court reversed the decision and ordered for five-year imprisonment, they are sure to walk out of the jail sooner,” said Khagaraj Khanal, representative of Baghmara Buffer Zone Community Forest.

After eight months of the decision of the court, 35 locals from Chitwan are here in Kathmandu to urge government to look seriously on the poaching activities of one horned rhino in Chitwan and review the decision of the court. “Our appeals to authorities concerned in Chitwan failed to yield any outcome, which compelled to come to Kathmandu as the government doesn’t listen to the voice of people outside Valley,” Khanal said.

The team has been campaigning for long time to save the rhinos and collected signature of more than 70,000 people for the cause. “It’s the last time we’re urging the government,” said Puspa Raj Shrestha, member of Chitrasen Buffer Zone Community Forest. “But, in case our pleas were turned down, then we will boycott all leaders in Chitwan and decided future course of agitation ourselves.” The locals are firm in their belief as the poachers those scot free will again involve in the “money-minting business”, as was proved in the past. “Such court ruling has encouraged the poachers for further poaching which will one day clear up the rare species from Chitwan,” Khanal argued. Many poachers, including Pemba Lama (Yakche), Kancha Lama Waiba, Purna Bahadur Pakhrin, Bhim Bahadur Syangten, Hasta Bahadur Tamang, Indra Bahadur Ghalan, Rajesh Gurung, Indra Bahadur Gurung, Bhim Bahadur Bhujel, Gokal Panta, will walk out of the prison next year as per the court ruling.