Check Wildlife Crime

On the wake of the self-congratulatory zero poaching celebrations of the government’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in the past few years, the police have arrested three persons on charge of smuggling rhino horns. In a tell-tale revelation, one of the arrestees facing the wildlife crime charge is a personnel of Nepal Army. The allegation is yet to be proven by the court of law but suspicions are already rife that poachers and wildlife part traders are often facilitated to do their jobs by some corrupt officials. Army personnel and officials of national parks are at the forefront of wildlife conservation and their devotion and moral integration make a huge difference for effectiveness of conservation measures. As part of mechanism on anti-poaching and anti-smuggling of wildlife parts we need to put in place effective security apparatus as well as intelligence bodies to see whether personnel in the field are performing up to the mark or not. Arrests of poachers, hunters and wild animal traders are not new but it is also important to make sure that wildlife criminals are not free within weeks or months at the pressure from higher place. Illegal wildlife traders and smugglers operate in a sophisticated international network and they have impressive cash and resources at their disposal to influence politicians and officials. This is the issue the state needs to address to make conservation programmes fool proof.

The official celebrations of zero poaching in the past few years do not assure us that wildlife criminals are out of the scene. The alleged wildlife part traders were looking for potential customers in the capital when they were arrested recently. Rhino parts in their possession tell us that poaching and smuggling of rhino have not come under control despite official claims otherwise. Deaths of 17 rhinos in the past six months in the Chitwan National Park and the claim of the park officials that all of those deaths were natural only deepen our doubts. If the endangered animals keep meeting untimely deaths and we continue to categorise them as natural ones, that will raise a question mark on our conservation focus. Some bleeding and injured rhinos are also dismissed as dying a natural death by official claims. Other deaths are attributed to pregnancy and child birth complications which are uncommon in wild animals. It seems that the officials tend to put the dead rhinos under ‘poached’ category only if the horns of the victims are removed. If the poachers are unable to take away the horn of the animal they killed, the case is likely to be dismissed as natural death. It is high time we abandon such simplistic method and embrace the mode of thorough investigation to dig deeper into the increasing deaths of rhinos. The age of concerned rhinos need to be considered to categorise their deaths as natural. Rhinos live up to the age of 50. But if an animal is found dead at 34, the death must be seen as untimely and caused by avoidable reasons.

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