New strategy must to save rhinos: Experts

Kathmandu, September 2:

With four one-horned rhinoceroses killed by poachers in a month, conservation experts have concluded that wildlife conservation strategy now badly requires revamping to effectively fight the ‘high-level rackets of poachers’.

Taking advantage of political instability and difficulties in local administration, poachers killed four rhinos in about a month’s time in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park alone. This fetched sharp international criticism to the government and the conservation bodies.

Poachers shot dead the fourth rhino in mid-August in a jungle around Chitwan.

“At this point of time, we have realised that a new, inclusive and comprehensive strategy should be made to protect the threatened species of rhinos from the hands of the poachers,” said Anil Manandhar, conservation programme director at WWF-Nepal.

Steps have been taken to form a network of wildlife watch group with participation of political parties and local communities, according to him.

He said the government should be more open with its policies on conservation and should keep it free from political influence. “A new integrated strategy, in which the government is more open to other partners and the locals are more involved, is necessary to stop poaching,” he said.

Despite plenty of international support, efforts for rhino conservation has not materialised. This is disappointing for the whole world. WWF-Nepal alone spends around Rs 32 million annually on anti-poaching activities.

Manandhar also admitted that total termination of poaching is not possible overnight, indicating that poaching rackets are far bigger than thought.

Conservationists say a rhino horn is sold for as much as $50,000-60,000 in international market and is smuggled to China and other parts of the world.

Biodiversity specialist Dr Tirtha Bahadur Shrestha was of the view that the government and the local community should feel ashamed of the uncontrolled poaching. “It should be realised that chopping of one rhino-horn is equal to chopping of noses of 62,000 people in terms of the number of rhino and the conservation efforts,” he said.

“It is high time to rethink on the government’s policy on rhino conservation,” he added.

Along with tracing the poachers, the government should also be involved in checking the customs, illegal dealings and the poachers should be strictly punished according to the laws, he said.

Rather than pointing to the government, which is already working under heavy constraints, for failure in conservation of one-horned rhinos, all should share the responsibility and work accordingly, chief ecologist at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Shyam Bajimaya, said.