By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
The increasing incidents of poaching and illegal trade of animal’s body parts have become a serious concern today. Taking the advantage of fluid political condition, the smugglers have expedited poaching activities in the country. On top, shaky security arrangements of the sanctuary have only encouraged poachers to go on rampage. On the whole, Nepal has been rapidly turning into a haven for the poachers.
Poachers are encouraged to kill endangered animals as there are many smugglers ready to buy the pelts. These smugglers buy and sell banned animal’s body parts in the international market, making lots of money in no time.
Rhino horn has been used for centuries in the making of traditional medicine to cure such ailments as fever, anxiety, boils, etc. It is also believed that a small possession of rhino horn keeps evil spirit at the bay. However, scientific studies have confirmed that rhino horn actually contains no curative properties, and it does not have any medicinal value whatsoever.
Most of the smugglers are financially well-off, and their networking has spread across the world. Unfortunately, the current volatile political situation of the country has made these elements more active than ever before. A country like Nepal where corruption is unbridled, smugglers always operate their activities without much difficulty.
An open border with India has only made smugglers work much easier to transport all illegal body parts of banned animals to different destinations in India. Once animals’ body parts are smuggled out, they are easily sent to the international market, where these items are sold at high price. Europe, the middle-East, the Gulf and China are the countries where such items do have large market.
In many cases, smugglers persuade local people for killing endangered animals. Owing to poverty and lack of job opportunity, local people agree to kill rare animals for a little sum of money, without thinking of possible impact on flora and fauna. Believe it or not, there are many shops at Thamel, Bhakaapur and Kathmandu, where illegal goods of rare animals’ body parts are sold without any fear of being caught.
The illegal trade is not limited within some shops, but some reputed hotels in Kathmandu are also indulged into the unlawful trade. The foreign tourists are the potential buyers. They never mind paying any price for the genuine goods. The modus-oprendy of buying and selling of such goods is well organized…It is quite difficult to nab them. There are some agents, who contact foreign tourists and ask them for the things they are looking for. Eventually banned goods are made available to them for a price.
Wildlife experts say the history of illegal hunting is quite old in Nepal. During the Rana regime, hunting was a popular pastime among the royalists. Consequently, many rare animals got killed for the purpose of fun and recreation. Moreover, the Ranas used to organize grandiose hunting trips to oblige their special guests.
In such hunting trips a large number of endangered animals like tigers, elephants, rhinos, and blackbucks and so on would be shot dead in a matter few days. The killing of most number of tigers was regarded as the display of velour.
This popular trend of the Ranas took a nasty toll on the population of some endangered animals. Later, organized gangs of poachers have only made things go bad to worse. These poachers never hesitate to kill rare wildlife since each kill brings them handsome money.
National Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Act 1972 forbid wildlife body parts trade. However, until Panchayat period, after receiving a special permission, wild animals could be hunted in some sanctuaries and other forests. Later in 1973 the government made a law and banned the possession of animal’s pelts and other body parts.
However, despite the ban the underground trade of endangered animal’s body parts has soared up uninterruptedly. The smugglers nexus with the influential officers has made their trade much safer, larger and organized. The bitter truth is that many corrupt leaders and bureaucrats are behind them. This is the reason why the police fail to arrest the kingpins. Even if poachers are arrested, they use political clouts and escape with soft punishment. Imprisonment does not create any fear to them.
Nowadays smugglers do have highly organized networking across the world. These people are well-equipped and more resourceful. They stay in star hotels and maneuver their activities clandestinely. They slowly develop relationship with police officers, political leaders and forestry officers.
All this become possible when a wad of money is thrown before the dishonest and greedy officials. Eventually the saviors turn the accomplices. Poverty ridden villagers and corrupt officials have paved poachers’ way much easier. So, no matter however stringent laws are brought into effect, but nothing can prevent poaching.
However, poaching can be tackled effectively. For this the government should uplift the financial status of poor people, especially who are living close by the sanctuary. At the same time, a separate vigilant squad should be formed to put a tab on poaching. More, all poachers, once grilled, must not let go lightly. In fact the laws against poachers are strict enough, but due to poor implementation the accused managed to escape with light punishment.
Rhinos are one of the most endangered species on earth. The total number of Rhinos in National Chitwan Park was estimated 544 in 2000. In subsequent years this number has further reduced to only 372. So within the period of seven years 124 rhinos were killed by the poachers.
However, if we believe in a report published by Wildlife Watch Group Nepal (WWGN), from January 3, 2011 to the end of 2011 not a single rhino has been poached in Chitwan National Park. In 2011 the only rhinos deaths recorded were due to natural causes.
In the recent past, Pemba Lama Gurung was arrested on the charges of poaching. He admitted to selling over 20 rhino horns at the rate of $4250-5700 per horn. Like Pemba Lama Gurung there are many poachers who are the potent threat to the wildfire. The crime these poachers are committing is without doubt unpardonable.
More shockingly, the government’s efforts in this regard do not seem much enthusiastic. First of all, the kingpins of poaching racket are never arrested, even if arrested they come out with minimum punishment. This is the only reason why the poaching has not stopped.
Now time has come for the Government to fasten its belt and take some stringent measures against the poaching. A high level enquiry committee should also be formed to investigate the surreptitious relation of poachers with the influent officials.
The government must break the nexus of poachers and the influential officers at the earliest possible. Only then can the backbone of the poachers be broken from the middle, and wildlife can be rescued from the hands of such unscrupulous poachers.
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