Though Nepal celebrated 2013 and 2011 as zero poaching years, with no sign of any rhino being killed in the protected areas, 2014 does not seem to be off to such a good start. A rhino with its horn missing was found on Saturday. It had been shot dead on Friday night.
The incident has taken place just six days after a new army battalion replaced the old one guarding Chitwan National Park. The previous battalion comprising nearly 1,100 men had been deployed in the protected zone for the last three years.
The loud sound of gunshot was heard during the night in the area between Dhunwa and Shukhibhar on the western side of the national park. Though army personnel rushed immediately toward the direction of the gunshot, they found the dead rhino only on Saturday, and its horn was missing.
“The battalion had rushed to the site as soon as they heard the gunshot, but it took time to recover the carcass,” said Tikaram Poudel, information officer and assistant conservation officer at the national park.
The new battalion, Shree Jung, comprises the same number of personnel as Nandabax, the previous battalion.
This is the very first rhino killing since the last 15 months. Remarkably, it is the very first time that a gun has been fired in the national park in the middle of the night. It shows that the self-confidence of poachers has grown with the previous army battalion leaving to make way for the new one. This is also shown by the growing number of rhino traps being set in the community forests nearby, and even guns have been found by the army. The situation poses a challenge to rhino conservation.
Just a few days ago, police had recovered some guns and ammunition from Seti Devi Community Forest in the Mangalpur area.
“The tragic incident happened even though there has been no slackening of security arrangements. We now need to be more alert,” said Poudel.
The incidence of poaching has risen during times of the changing of the guard. Similar incidents had taken place 26 months ago when there were changes in the chiefs of the national park.
Poachers are used by smugglers to kill rhinos for their precious horns. Rhino killing or involvement in trafficking in its body part attracts a fine of Rs 50,000 to 100,000 or a jail term of five to 15 years, or both.