CHITWAN – Barely a few weeks after Nepal marked the second consecutive ‘ Zero Poaching Year ’, a rare one-horned rhino has been found dead in the Chitwan National Park (CNP), apparently killed by wildlife smugglers.
The poachers killed the rhino in the proposed Dobhan Buffer Zone Community Forest in Jagatpur VDC in the district on Friday night. The CNP officials and Nepal Army personnel found the dead rhino with its horns severed on Saturday morning.
According to Tikaram Poudel, the CNP spokesman and assistant conservation officer, the rhino was an adult male, approximately aged 25. He said the park officials and the NA personnel at Dhurba Post had heard gunshots on Friday night. A team of park officials and the security personnel, who were mobilised to scour the area, found the dead rhino the next morning.
The smugglers used a sharp weapon to sever the horn, the CPN stated, adding that a .303 rifle bullet was found between the eyes and ears of the rhino during autopsy, confirming its killing. The CNP also stated that they had found five used .303 bullet shells 250 metres from the site.
The CNP said that they had stepped up the manhunt and deployed personnel from the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police, NA personnel posted at the park, together with a team of park officials to arrest the poachers.
It is speculated that the smugglers exploited the security situation as the incident happened merely a week after the transfer of NA personnel from Nandabaks Battalion who were in charge of park security.
Even on previous occasions, smugglers would be found active during a change of guard or transfer of NA battalions at the park. Although armymen and park officials were deployed round the clock, the smugglers succeeded in their goal. A week ago, the park had bade farewell to Nandabaks Battalion Chief Chakra Bahadur Shah, who had played a crucial role in helping the CNP achieve two successive ‘ Zero Poaching Year ’. During the farewell programme Shah had asked the park officials to stay alert as the smugglers could take advantage of the situation.
The CNP had celebrated ‘ Zero Poaching Year ’ for the second consecutive year and nature conservationists were overwhelmed by the recent achievement.