Amid uproar officials claim BNP is safe

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 2, 2016-

The Bardiya National Park (BNP) authority has responded to the conservationists who have raised an uproar over the government’s decision to relocate 30 one-horned rhinos from the Chitwan National Park (CNP) to the BNP.

BNP officials on Tuesday said the claim that BNP is “unsafe” for rhinos was untrue because there has not been a single rhino poaching incident since 2007. But the protesting conservationists have questioned the status of 83 rhinos that were shifted from the CNP to the BNP since 1985. The latest rhino census at BNP puts the number of pachyderms at 29. 

Going by the numbers, 54 rhinos are unaccounted for, and the BNP has not answered how many of them were killed or died of natural causes. Meanwhile, the rhino population at the CNP is said to have increased significantly since 1985; the 2015 census put the number rhinos inside the CNP at 605, an increase of 99 from the previous census of 2011.

Many rhinos were killed by poachers during a decade-long insurgency, including those inside the CNP where 37 rhinos were killed in one year. 

BNP Chief Conservation Officer Ramesh Kumar Thapa says they had only 24 rhinos four years ago and now they have 29 of them. 

“To conserve the rhinos we have set up 12 security posts in Babai Valley that are guarded by Nepal Army soldiers. We have also mobilised local youths in the buffer zone to protect them. That’s why we have not had any rhino poaching incidents in years,” Thapa said. The conservationists, however, are not buying the argument.

“Who will be held accountable if we have the same problem like in the past? The relocation programme was rushed. There should have been a detailed study on the situation of rhino habitat inside the Bardiya National Park,” said Dr Prabhu Budathoki, a conservationist.

Tikaram Adhikari, former assistant warden of the CNP, said the rhino relocation programme could not have come at a worst time with the BNP struggling to conserve its tiger population.

“They should be focusing on conserving the tiger population, not on relocating the rhinos,” Adhikari said. 

Around 12 tigers were found killed inside the Bardiya National Park and its nearby areas since 2015.

As per the three-year rhino relocation programme, the CNP moved one rhino to the BNP on Tuesday. The technicians involved in the relocation said they plan to shift five rhinos at first and all will be fitted with GPS collars to track their movement.  

(Reporting by Kamal Panthi in Bardiya and Bimal Khatiwada & Abdullah Miya in Chitwan)

Published: 02-03-2016 08:19

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