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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02KATHMANDU509
2002-03-11 13:19:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

MAOIST AMBUSH MARS ANNUAL RHINO RELOCATION

Tags:  SENV PGOV PTER EAID ASEC SOCI NP 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 000509 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SA/INS, OES AND DS/OP/NEA
DEPT OF INTERIOR FOR U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE
LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PGOV PTER EAID ASEC SOCI NP
SUBJECT: MAOIST AMBUSH MARS ANNUAL RHINO RELOCATION

REF: KATHMANDU 498

This message is sensitive but unclassified. It is not
intended for distribution outside official USG channels.



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Maoist insurgents killed two Royal
Nepalese Army soldiers near Royal Chitwan National Park on
March 10 just hours after the start of the annual
relocation of rhinos from Chitwan to Royal Bardiya
National Park. The subsequent army cordoning of the area
forced four trucks carrying rhinos to stop by the side of
the highway for about three hours. The rhino relocation
is continuing. However, the incident again demonstrates
the wide-ranging disruptions in Nepal caused by the armed
insurgency and the strain on both civilian government and
military assets that has resulted from Maoist terror. End
summary.



2. (U) The annual rhinoceros relocation from Chitwan to
Bardiya national parks, held under the auspices of the
King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) and
sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, and others, began successfully on March
10 and was proceeding according to plan. Shortly after
the first four (out of ten planned) rhinos were crated and
put on trucks, a Maoist attack killed two Army personnel
riding in a private truck on the Mugling to Narayangadh
road. (Note: although this is part of the main highway
from Kathmandu to the Indian border, it is a number of
miles from Chitwan, and not on the route the rhinos were
taking to Bardiya). The Army promptly cordoned off the
entire area around the town of Bharatpur and Chitwan
National Park, forcing the four trucks carrying the rhinos
to halt by the side of the road. The trucks with the
rhinos were allowed to continue on towards Bardiya
National Park about three hours later.



3. (SBU) The poaching of two rhinos from national parks
for their horns, valued in tradition Chinese medicine, in
the previous two weeks had already cast a pall over the
annual relocation. King Mahendra Trust director Arup
Rajouria (whose predecessor is now Nepal's Ambassador to
the U.S.) told us the organizers had even considered
postponing the operation. Nevertheless, this year's
relocation attracted a high-level contingent of observers
from the Government of Nepal, WWF, UNDP, several Kathmandu-
based embassies (including Ambassadors and Emboffs from
the U.S., China, Australia, and France) and other
international organizations. Many, but not all, of the
international observers had departed the area by the time
the attack occurred.



4. (SBU) WWF Nepal head Chandra Gurung told us that his
delegation had just missed becoming eyewitnesses to the
attack as they were returning by road to Kathmandu from
the national park. According to Gurung, the Maoists
detonated a device by remote control from some nearby
hills, then fired on the truck carrying the soldiers. An
ensuing firefight produced several more injuries among
army troops, and some witnesses reported dead or wounded
insurgents being carried away. Gurung speculated that the
Maoists must have had excellent intelligence as well as
communications ability to be able to target this
particular unmarked truck -- unless they were actually
targeting Minister of State for Forests and Conservation
Hamal, who had passed by the site earlier (unlikely).
(Note: septel will cover reports that both Hamal and his
superior, Minister Gopal Man Shrestha, resigned on March
11 on unrelated corruption allegations). Gurung confirmed
that the rhinos did reach Bardiya on the morning of March
11 and were released as planned, and that the relocation
project was continuing.



5. (SBU) Comment: The attack in the general area of
Chitwan -- a magnet for the remaining tourists in Nepal,
and which had previously been considered relatively safe
from the threat of Maoist terrorism -- underscores the
point made in reftel. The insurgency is straining
Government of Nepal and Royal Nepalese Army resources,
causing them to redeploy forces away from environmentally
sensitive areas like the national parks. The result has
been a vacuum that both the Maoist insurgents and criminal
poachers have rushed to exploit. In this case, the
victims have included not only the police and army
officers assassinated by the Maoists, and Nepal's helpless
civilian population, but also Nepal's equally defenseless
wildlife -- a national treasure and an asset of truly
global significance. However, we do not believe that the
attack was timed to coincide with the rhino relocation.
The Maoists' target was, once more, the Royal Nepalese
Army, not the international observers at the rhino
relocation event.

MALINOWSKI