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Three rhinos killed in Nepal in July, over 100 in last 6 years.

07/03/2007 00:00:00 news/dead_rhino6[1] August 2006. The Greater one horned Asian rhino has been in a perilous state for some time, but the recent news of three rhinos being killed is highly disturbing. Only a few small subpopulations remain in north-eastern India and Nepal, in total fewer than 2000 rhinos. In Nepal’s Royal Chitwan National Park alone, poachers have shot over 100 rhinos in the last 6 years - including 3 in the last week in July. Even more tragically, one of the rhinos was killed while calving.

The disgusting fact is that rhino horn is still used in traditional Asian and Chinese medicine. High prices and strong demand mean that these magnificent lumbering beasts are in grave danger. Many of the regions that they are still found in lack the resources to protect the animals properly.

40 years ago Nepal’s rhino population was just 95 animals. A very successful conservation programme turned the situation around so that by 2000 numbers had increased to over 600. But within 5 years poachers have reduced this number by half. Lack of resources and armed conflict have made life easier for the poachers to slaughter these wonderful animals. Just being a ranger is a dangerous way of life, particularly in Nepal. The Maoist uprising forced the Nepalese army to divert resources away from rhino protection, and many guard posts were left empty as it was just too dangerous to man them.

Time is running out. Royal Chitwan National Park, home to the second largest population of Greater one-horned rhinos, must be protected. Wildlife Conservation Nepal (WCN) and Care for the Wild International have set up a project to protect the remaining rhinos in Chitwan. Desperately needed resources to monitor the movement of rhinos and poachers, an effective informer network, and conservation education initiatives amongst local communities are now in place to turn this crisis around. There are already signs of progress.

Veteran conservationist Prasanna Yonzon, Wildlife Conservation Nepal Chief Executive says: 'I had asked CWI to have ex-police involved in addressing rhino poaching in Chitwan. A small step taken now can have a massive impact on poachers and traders. We needed to do something immediately or many more could be lost. Our team is now in place and we look forward to doing a good job to protect Chitwan’s rhinos.'

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