Chitwan national park turning into poachers haven

 

KATHMANDU: In the past two months, poachers, making a mockery of park security arrangements, have killed seven rhinos at the Chitwan National Park. And in the last one year, the CNP saw more than 15 rhinos fall at the hand of poachers.

These incidents, which occurred despite the deployment of more than 900 Nepal Army personnel for wildlife protection, point at cracks in security arrangements. In light of unabated poaching in national parks, high officials at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) have felt the need to mobilise Nepali Army personnel deployed for park security more effectively.

Subsequently, the officials have demanded that the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) outline the NA’s role in the parks to chalk out an anti-poaching strategy that works. “The role and duties of Army personnel deployed in the parks are not clear,” said Tulsi Ram Sharma, spokesperson, DNPWC, pointing that there’s no written agreement between the government and the NA over the deployment of the soldiers in the national parks.

“To make anti-poaching efforts more effective, the forest ministry should prepare a strategy after holding rigorous consultations with the Ministry of Defence on the deployment of the army personnel and get the strategy approved through the Cabinet,” added Sharma. According to wildlife officials, of late, rhinos have been poached in core areas of the Chitwan national park, which are quite close to security posts.

“If wildlife is killed in the park area, the Army should be taken to task first. But here, the department of wildlife is blamed for all the incidents, regardless of the fact that the department is not an armed body tasked with tackling the poachers,” said Megh Bahadur Pandey, deputy director general, DNPWC.

“Our duty is to look after the overall management of the parks and that is what we are doing. The army should also be equally responsible,” added Pandey. Terming park security a ‘complex issue’, Forest Minister Deepak Bohara said his ministry had taken the issue seriously.

“We will talk with the defence ministry and high-level army officials within a few days to find out the solution,” said the forest minister. While a source at the ministry said,”When wildlife is poached in a national park, the warden is held responsible. The wardens are transferred after poaching incidents, while army personnel are spared.”

Stressing the need to address national parks problems immediately, Diwakar Chapagain, wildlife trade manager, World Wildlife Fund-Nepal, said, “If we fail to address park security issues, the donor community, which has invested hugely for wildlife conservation, will question our conservation efforts.”

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