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Major Rhino Horn Poachers Arrested in Nepal


20th July, 2005

On Tuesday, 20 July, the authorities in Nepal announced the sensational arrest of eight major rhino horn poachers and traders.

Working on a tip-off, the Royal Nepal Army and the National Park authorities of Royal Chitwan National Park arrested the men near Kasara, where the Park headquarters are situated.

"This is huge step forward for Nepal in the fight against rhino poaching" said lawyer Dr Ravi Sharma Aryal of Wildlife Action Group. He added "it is possibly the biggest catch of its kind in the history of Nepal".

The man who is thought to be the kingpin of the rhino horn trade in Nepal, Pemba Lama Gurung alias Yakche, was also arrested. Around 40 years of age he is believed to have been involved in the purchase and sale of rhino horns to "foreign countries" for a number of years. He was caught with one rhino horn, a Toyota Corolla Car, NRs.4.46 lakhs in cash (approx. US$ 6,330) a spring weighing machine, and a mobile phone. Lama has apparently already confessed to trading in 20 rhino horns, which he purchased for about Rs.4 lakhs (~US$ 5,700) each.

To give some scale of the financial clout of Lama, the Assistant Warden of Royal Chitwan National Park, Mr. Kamal Jung Kuwar, said that Lama has a three-storey house in Sitapaila, Kathmandu that he has rented out to a foreign donor agency for NRs.1.3 lakhs (~US$ 1,850) per month. In the meantime Lama has been residing in a luxurious rented house in Chettrapati, Kathmandu.

The other people arrested include Sher Bahadhur Chalan from Bara District, Suman Gurung from Mustang , Kami from Parsa, Rishi Ram Sarumagar, and Dil Bahadhur Jhayadimagar.

"We are delighted that key players in the illegal rhino horn trade in Nepal have finally been exposed. The Nepal authorities deserve huge credit for this operation" said Belinda Wright, Executive Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

A week ago, there were reports that ten rhinos had been killed in Chitwan in the past three months. A World Natural Heritage Site, the 175-square-kilometre Park was once considered a great conservation success when the rhino population went from 100 in the early 1970s, to 550 by the year 2000. But when the last rhino census was conducted in March this year, the population had plummeted to 360. This was largely due to the virtual withdrawal from the Park of Nepalese army personnel who were diverted elsewhere to fight the Maoist insurgency.
 

 

 

 

 

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