By Chrissy Spallone
On March 3rd, the first World Wildlife Day, Nepal announced its second year without a single incident of wildlife poaching, the first year having ended in 2011. (Some poachers claimed to have killed a single rhino in Chitwean National Park during February 2011, but park spokesperson Tikaram Poudel believes this claim is false.) One rhino was poached in April 2012, and another in February 2013, but that was the last known incident. If it weren’t for these isolated occurrences, the last two years would have been poach-free as well.
During Nepal’s civil war, up to 37 rhinos were killed in a single year, with 141 rhinos killed in the last 10 years of the war. Their horns are prized in China and Vietnam for use in traditional medicine, though there is no evidence of any medicinal value.
In light of this, the celebration of an entire year with no poaching is a special achievement for activists and conservation workers.
Megh Bahadur Pandey, director general of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation says, “A national level commitment [to curbing wildlife crimes\ is key to encouraging complementing efforts, right down to the grassroots level, in order to address this biggest threat to wildlife not just in Nepal but across the world.”
At last, other nations are joining Nepal in the fight against poaching. In December 2013, China finally criminalized poaching, and the U.S. stepped up to ban commercial imports and exports of ivory just last month. Elephants, rhinos, and tigers continue to be poached elsewhere, but hopefully these efforts will raise awareness of the issue and inspire other countries to save these threatened species.