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Funding Plea To Save One-Horned Rhino In Nepal

The Nepalese one-horned rhino.
by Staff Writers
Kathmandu (AFP) Jan 07, 2007
Nepal's wildlife department Sunday appealed to the government for an immediate 200,000-dollar funding injection to save rare one-horned rhinos which have been poached by the dozens in the past five years.

"We have asked for 15 million rupees (208,000 dollars) from the government to control poaching of the one-horned rhinoceros, who have decreased by a large number in recent years," Laxmi Prasad Manandhar, senior conservation officer at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation told AFP.

Dozens of rhinos were killed by suspected poachers during a Maoist rebellion in Nepal that forced government police and soldiers from the countryside, including at two major national parks created to protect the endangered species.

The population of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park, 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, dropped to 372 in 2005 from 544 in 2000. In the past six months, poachers have killed at least 12 rhinos in the park.

At the Bardiya National Park, 500 kilometers west of Kathmandu, as many as 23 rhinoceros have been killed by poachers, while another 49 have gone missing, according to the authorities.

"A total of 72 rhinoceros were translocated from Chitwan National Park to Babai valley in Bardiya National Park between 1987 and 2002. Not a single rhino was found in Babai valley during our recent survey," Manandhar told AFP.

"We were very much surprised at how so many rhinos disappeared. Had they been killed, we would have at least found the carcass," said Manandhar.

The rebels and the government reached accord in April on a ceasefire and peace process that ended 14 months of direct royal rule, and Manandhar said the drop in fighting had allowed the department a chance to increase anti-poaching efforts.

He said international conservation bodies, including the World Wildlife Fund and World Conservation Union, had pledged their support to preserve the rare species.

Wildlife experts said many rhinos fell prey to poachers during the rebellion, which began in 1996 and has claimed more than 12,500 lives.

The animal's horn is valued as an aphrodisiac in China, and is used to make dagger handles in Arab countries which can fetch as much as 14,000 dollars on the international black market.

"Most of the killings and missing cases were due to lack of adequate security in the park during the 10-year old conflict," said Omkar Joshi, warden at the Bardiya National Park.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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