Nepal jails 13 for rhino poaching

A one-horn rhino in the Chitwan National Park, some 150 km southwest of Kathmandu, on December 29, 2011. Nepal has jailed 13 poachers of the endangered one-horn rhino

Thirteen poachers of the endangered one-horn rhino have been sentenced to jail in Nepal, a government official said Thursday. An official at the Chitwan National Park, home to most of Nepal's rhinos, said six poachers were arrested three years ago while the other seven were convicted in absentia. "All thirteen were convicted of poaching a rhino in a community forest in Nawalparasi district in March 2009. Some went into the forest in a group. Others aided with weapons," Tikaram Paudel, an officer at the park told AFP. Paudel said eight convicts were handed a 15-year prison sentence and a 100,000 rupee ($1050) fine for killing the animal. Rhino poaching in Nepal carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail. "The rest have been sentenced 10 years in jail and fined 50,000 rupees," he added, explaining that they were found guilty of keeping watch while the others slaughtered the rhino. He said that the court asked police to arrest the convicts who are still on the run. The Chitwan National Park, which is under the government-run Department of Wildlife Conservation and National Parks, is vested with semi-judicial authority to act as a court by Nepal's National Parks Act. Thousands of one-horned rhinos once roamed the plains of Nepal, but their numbers have plunged over the past century due to poaching and human encroachment of their habitat. The animals are poached for their horns, which are wrongly prized for their supposed medicinal qualities in China and southeast Asia. Asian consumers falsely believe the horns, the same material as fingernails, have healing properties. A single horn can sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the international black market, and impoverished Nepal's porous borders, weak law enforcement and proximity to China have made the country a hub for the illegal trade.