In Nepal’s Chitwan National Park a large group of poachers was arrested. Two of the main culprits were sentenced to jail terms; one 14 years and the other 15. Another was sentenced to eight. In addition to the jail terms, fines were also imposed. According to officials at Chitwan National Park, the man who was sentenced to 15 years killed nine rhinos. The World Wildlife Fund states there are only about 408 rhinos in that region. Recent poaching has killed 24 there since that particular population count.
Rhino horn and body parts fetch significant prices on the black market due to false beliefs that they contain medically beneficial chemicals. Rhino horn is also believed to be an aphrodisiac by some, although like the beliefs about medicinal properties, the claims are unsupported by scientific research.
Another threat to the Chitwan area rhinos is the growth of non-native grasses. The invasive plants are crowding the native grasses which rhinos consume. In order to find more food rhinos may venture out of the protected areas and are then even more vulnerable to poachers.
When poachers are arrested too often they get off lightly. In other instances laws protecting animals are not even enforced. The Nepal officials who did their jobs well deserve a lot of credit for protecting the rhinos. Chitwan is the first national park created in Nepal. Before it became a park, it was a big game hunting ground.
Image Credit: Nico J. van Strien