Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nepal loses a herd of rhinos

Nepal introduced 72 Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) to a nature reserve in the southwest of the country starting in 1984. They can't find a single one. While 23 are known to have died, an "extensive search" has turned up no trace of the others, except for one skeleton. The Babai Valley was abandoned by forestry personnel in 1999 due to a guerrilla conflict, but, now that things have calmed down, the government is still looking for the rhinos, or for remains of the bodies left by poachers (who would have taken only the horn). An official said, "Where did they go? I have no answer. It is a mystery."

COMMENT: While this is obviously bad news for conservation, the species is fortunately doing well in India and elsewhere in Nepal. What this story highlights is the difficulty of keeping track of animals, even large ones, or finding their remains. It was only in December 2005 that the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) was confirmed to be living in Vietnam, years after it was written off as extinct.

Matt Bille

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