Monday, January 01, 2007

Rhinos may be extinct in 20 yrs: Experts

[Razen Manandhar]
Himalayan News Service
Kathmandu, December 31[2006]:

No rhinos will be left in the jungles of Nepal in 10 to 20 years if the present rate of rhino-poaching continues, a conservationist said today, even as other wildlife experts stressed the need to focus on efforts aimed at conserving rhinoceros.

“The total number of rhinos killed or died in 2006 must be around 47. One cannot even imagine that such an endangered species is being poached so rampantly. If rhino-poaching continues at this rate, no rhinos will be left in Nepal in the next 10 to 20 years,” said Mangal Man Shakya, chairman of the Wildlife Watch Group (WWG).

According to data made available by different conservation agencies, 29 to 47 rhinos were poached or died in the year 2006. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, the government authority on wildlife affairs, says it does not have an
updated data on rhino-poaching. Nepal was home to over 800 rhinos until 1950, but the number went down to only 60 rhinos in 1960s. Thanks to the government’s conservation efforts and international support, the rhino population reached to 612 by 2000.
According to the statistics of Rhino Count, Nepal sheltered 544 rhinos in 2000 but only 372 were left in 2005.

It took only six years to cut the whole number into 343. A kilo of rhino horn costs Rs 3.5 million in international illegal trade market. Shakya asked, “And if the number of rhinos can go down by half in mere six or seven years, how many years will it take for the rhinos to become extinct here?”

As the poaching continued, the authorities concerned blame conflict, evacuation of security posts or political instability for the dwindling number of rhinos, but the situation worsened even during the post-conflict period.
Chief Executive Officer of Wildlife Conservation Nepal Prasanna Yonzon said, “2006 has been a disaster for rhino conservation.”

The governments have never been serious about arrest poachers, he said, adding that even cabinet decisions help the administration to release convicted criminals. “It will be difficult to conserve rhinos in Nepal if the present rate of poaching continues.”

However, the tragedy of 2006 could be a lesson for future rhino conservation efforts.
Anil Manandhar, country representative of the WWF Nepal, said that the rising poaching incidents we came across in 2006 are indeed a lesson for conservationists. “Rather than working on paper, time has come for the conservationists to focus on actions aimed at conserving rhinoceros.”
[Monday, 1. January 2007]