By Leya Musa
Police and authorities in Nepal have completed a major operation which has seen a total of 14 people arrested for poaching and smuggling rhino horn. The operation followed the arrest of a smuggling ‘kingpin’ in the middle of September.
The first arrest was of 55-year-old Buddhi Bahadur Praja. He was head of a ring of poachers who also acted as the intermediary with customers in Tibet. The police believe that Praja may have been responsible for the killing of 12 rhinos over the last 6 years.
When he was arrested in Pokhara his interrogation led to the arrest of another 13 people who were involved in his network. 4 of those arrested were involved in the smuggling of rhino horn. 8 were involved in the killing of the rhinos and 1 was arrested for providing weapons and ammunition.
Tikaram Paudel, an official at the Chitwan National Park explained that “He (Praja) would supply the rhino horns to Kathmandu-based smugglers who would supply them to Tibetans,”
The Chitwan National Park is home to the majority of the one-horned asian rhinos that live in the country. In a 2011 census 534 rhino were recorded as still living in the park.
While the fine for rhino poaching in Nepal are not high with a maximum fine of about US$1,000 there is a possible maximum prison term available of 15 years.