Yet another rhino was gunned down in the forest area adjoining the Chitwan National Park on Tuesday even as a noted conservationist warned that there could be no rhinos left in the country in 10-20 years’ time. The rhino killed on Tuesday was the 12th to be hunted down by the poachers in the last six months; the total number killed in 2006 alone stands at 47. From a high of 612 in 2000, their number has plummeted to 32. With half of them wiped out in six years, if the current rate of poaching remains unchecked, Nepal will have no rhino left in 10 years.
The flurry of letters THT receives is a testament of how concerned Nepalis are about the issue. But the government is clearly not. It has recently come to light that a Cabinet meeting on August 28 had mysteriously decided to release 13 poachers for no better reason than “to celebrate Dashain”. Again, on September 18, two more poachers were released. It seems incredible that even as the media and the conservationists are bending over backwards to preserve this rare animal, the government is seen to be abetting the poachers. A small and poor country, Nepal doesn’t have much to boast about. A notable exception has been its flora and fauna. There is no problem saying this: This enduring symbol of national identify must be protected at all costs. Whether it be through increasing the number of security posts, putting more patrol personnel on the ground or instituting harsh punishment measures against the poachers, it is absolute time to work on a war footing to save the rare one-horned rhinos from extinction.