KATHMANDU, April 12: Posing a serious challenge to wildlife conservation, a dozen poachers who were released four and a half years ago after their jail sentences were commuted, have now been ravaging wildlife at Chitwan National Park (CNP), investigations show.
Ramsaran BK, one of the 12 poachers set free in August, 2006 after they had served just three and a half years of a 15-year sentence, was arrested again on poaching charges recently.
BK, who is known as an all-time notorious rhino-horn smuggler, was nabbed last week in the capital in a raid by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), which has been running ´Operation Hunt´ against poaching rings for a couple of months now.
The poachers must all have reverted to their old ways, given the rapid increase in rhino-poaching in the wake of the amnesty, which officials said reeked of foul play.
“The amnesty was followed by more deaths of rhinos here,” said Jagganath Singh, CNP conservation officer. “We are now verifying details about the post-amnesty activities of the poachers.”
Collective amnesty mystery
How all 12 poachers were amnestied simultaneously by a cabinet decision before they had completed even a quarter of their jail terms has been a mystery for conservationists.
Officials declining to be named for speaking against the government decision recalled that poaching groups around CNP had been in uproar before the collective amnesty was granted.
“The collective amnesty and subsequent increase in rhino-poaching must connect somewhere,” they said.
CIB chief Rajendra Singh Bhandari said that the arrest of most-wanted BK could take investigations closer to the poaching rings. CIB, he said, has been carrying out operations to dent the poaching rackets significantly.
The authorities mostly arrest only those employed by the poaching rings. Over a month ago, Kajiman Praja, most wanted for reportedly killing 15 rhinos at CNP in the last three years, was arrested together with his family members. Investigative officials have found that Raj Kumar Praja, who employed Kajiman´s family in rhino-poaching, has been at large and is reportedly hiding in Singapore.
Singh said that the rhino-poaching could involve organized groups running other businesses as fronts. “This is a vast sector and we are just trying to penetrate it,” he added.
Chong Paldang Lama, who was arrested together with BK, said during preliminary interrogations that he would work for a Chinese national named Henan.
CIB, in cooperation with different conservation agencies, has already arrested 22 poachers within a few months.