KASARA (CHITWAN)- The Chitwan National Park (CNP) has made public a notorious poacher who reportedly killed 20 one-horned rhinos.
The CNP paraded most wanted Raj Kumar Praja, a permanent resident of Korak-9 in Chitwan, before the media on Sunday. An Interpol team arrested Praja in Malaysia on January 30. The Malaysian police had nabbed the fugitive from Kuala Lumpur and handed him over to Nepal.
Requested by the Nepal Police, the Interpol in 2013 had issued a Red Corner Notice—an international wanted person’s alert that is sent to police forces around the world—for his involvement in rhino killing and international wildlife trade.
Praja, 31, had been on the run after he was slapped 15-year jail and Rs 100,000 fine for each of the six cases. The CNP had filed 15 cases against him on the charge of rhino poaching. The Park said the accused shot dead 20 rhinos and injured five. In addition, Praja was charged with smuggling two rhino horns.
Praja admitted to poaching 20 rhinos and smuggling their parts. “I earned 4 to 4.5 million rupees by selling the horns but I could not save any money,” he told reporters.
Praja acquired citizenship under the name of Bhaktaraj Giri from Gorkha producing fake documents and fled to Malaysia four years ago.
According to Park officials, Praja had been involved in poaching and smuggling of animal parts since 2004. The CNP attempted to arrest him several times but without success. Assistant Conservation Officer Bishnu Thapaliya said the Interpol had issued a notice as he evaded arrest.
Conservationists are happy with the arrest. “Wildlife poaching and smuggling has yet to be controlled but we will make significant gains if the present rate of success is maintained,” said Tikaram Adhikari, director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
The government is planning to conduct a rhino count this year to monitor the status and distribution of the endangered animal in major sanctuaries in the country. The total number of rhinos in Nepal was 534 in 2011. The CNP then recorded their highest number at 503, followed by Bardiya National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve at 24 and 7, respectively.