Chitwan celebrated 2011 and 2013 as the year of no poaching. No poaching in Chitwan means that neither Greater One-Horned Rhinos nor Bengal Tigers and Asiatic Elephants were killed. 3rd march, every year is the measure of success rate of Nepal army who safeguards this unique natural ecosystem of Terai- Siwalik foothills. Chitwan merrily stays enchanted with more than 350 resident bird species and undisturbed animal activity.The composition of 60% Sal in center, expanding outwards to riverine and the grasslands together provide just appropriate habitat forthe endangered One-Horned Rhinoceros. In a core area of 93000 hectare and 75000 hectares of buffer zone Rhinos graze independently, without fear. The human inhabitations inside the park and community’s forest dependency has been diverted to use of biogas.
Terai Region had been a hunting preserve before 1973, in 1984 it was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its unique habitat. Hunting was banned and the forest community were established outside forests to minimize incidental man-animal conflicts. Even the era of Majestic Rulers hunting did more good than harm, as only kings and his invitees were allowed for the ‘royal game’. The park saw worse days in 2000-2005 when around 15-17 Rhinos were poached each year. However, Chitwanhas come a long way by leaving no stone unturned to save the armored ungulates. 2011 and 2013 were the years when Nepal celebrated 365 days of no poaching. Infact, in 2012 Nepal missed another year of zero poaching due to one registered case of poaching. Very recently in December, a well rooted gang of poachers has been busted.
The single horned Rhino belongs to Rhinocerotide family whose first traces connect back to 50 million year old Equidae family. Rhinoceros are the second biggest mammal found on land, and has five subspecies. CNP ranks second in world for inhabiting 503 Rhinos as per 2011 count which had dropped to a minimal of 70-100 in 1970. Only Terai of Nepal, Northeastern India and Bhutan provide enough habitat of grasslands for this Unicornis to survive.
Around the world, Rhinos are endangered and threatened due to poaching. They are poached for their horn which is an ever growing mass of hair on the nose. The largest recorded has been a 5 ft. It is priced as per the weight which can range between 400-1000gms. The Indian rhinos are exposed to a greater risk of poaching, as compared to the African Rhinos. The beliefs of some that the horn can cure various ailments has made horn smuggling a risky and highly rewarding sin. There are no scientific grounds to the beliefs and the horn is made up of keratin (found in human nails and hair). Nepal’s boundaries with China and India, puts it in the center for international horn smuggling. Despite all odds, Nepal in its 23% of forest area has managed to curb poaching activities.
Chitwan gives a unique experience, as the age old forest and army efforts to conserve it go unnoticed. On nature walks or Jeep Safaris – one can counter army anywhere in the park. Some major implementations that give the army an authority for speedy actions against poachers and socio-economic development model for villagers.Jeetaram Choudhary and Prem (Chief Naturalist and Nature Guide resp.) mention that in their 20 years of blessed association with CNP- much has improved. The Grassland has increased which is the perfect habitat and grazing ground for Rhinos.” The numbers of Indian Gaur is also increasing. There are good chances to sight them in summers when the herd descends to the wallows.20 years back we had only 8 checkposts, now we have 51-53 – they keep adding a few every year”says Jeetaram
What has not changed for good is the very attribute of the wild animals. Unlike other parks, spotting predators needs constant effort and hawk-eye scanning. The animals are still shy, which makes them even more beautiful, Itis a park where the community and authorities together are striving to keep the magic of Magical Chitwan alive. The numbers say it all.Chitwan National Park is exemplary of safeguarding, developing and letting nature find its’own course
Courtesy : Vineeta Yadav