Celebrate Success

Text by Anil Chitrakar

The fact that not a single rhino was poached in the last year is worthy of a national celebration. We have a lot to thank for the rhinos. They were the cornerstone of building diplomatic relationships with Britain through hunting trips for visiting dignitaries. When King George V visited Nepal in December 1911, eighteen rhinos were shot. During the visit by the Prince of Wales in December, 1921, eight rhinos were hunted. Similarly the Rana rulers and later on the Shah kings continued the tradition of hunting rhinos each winter. Prime Minister Juddha Sumsher killed 13 in 1932.

Today the rhino employs many Nepalis in the tourism sector. Whether you sell airline tickets globally or locally, run a hotel or cook in one, whether you sell paintings or photos, or work for a conservation project or agency, we all need to be thankful to the rhino. Nepal rhino population represents one of three Asiatic species and is known as the Greater One-horned Rhino. Officials in the parks department tell us that there are close to 600 rhinos in Nepal now and is growing in population. This is good news for everyone involved in protecting them and need to be thanked.

A century ago, rhinos and their habitat were “protected” so that the rich and powerful could hunt them and collect trophies. Today they are protected because they are a key part of the ecosystem and they are a great contributor to the local and national economy. Naturally a time could come when we have “too many” of these great animals for the area of our parks. Efforts are hence already underway to facilitate regional cooperation in wildlife management in the region beyond Nepal. It would be nice if countries in Asia whose economies are doing really well could invest in re-populating areas from where they have become extinct.

Till the 1950s rhinos were safe, thanks to the six-legged mosquitoes and malaria in many parts of the Terai. After malaria eradication campaigns, huge numbers of hill people moved down to the plains and began to compete with the rhino for land. The two-legged man seemed to have almost failed to save the rhino till the Chitwan National Park was created in 1972 to save the last sixty rhinos. A tenfold increase in population is a great success and worthy of celebrations. The tourism sector needs to organize a civic reception for the conservation community to show gratitude.

As politicians raise their rhetoric about federal boundaries, the rhinos and their habitat need to come under a single jurisdiction. We cannot allow them to do anything to lose the successes in wildlife management achieved over the past 40 years. We must also help spread the word in the regions of the world that have markets for wildlife body parts that they will be better off buying Viagra. We must make an effort to get rich people in the region to love wildlife in the wild rather than seeking their body parts. This new aspiration to be in nature will be our ultimate success to save the rhino from extinction. Let us also make sure we do not entertain any proposal to put these magnificent animals in captivity and breed them as domestic livestock. Let us celebrate success and commit ourselves to do more.