16 February 2015 | World Wildlife Fund News Release
The government of Nepal made public the arrest of a notorious rhino poacher, Raj Kumar Praja, amidst a press event in Chitwan National Park yesterday.
Praja, a resident of Chitwan, was arrested by an Interpol team in Malaysia on 30 January based on a Red Corner Notice issued by Interpol at the request of the Nepal Police. He was brought to Nepal on 8 February and has been placed under the custody of Chitwan National Park since 9 February.
Based on preliminary investigations, Praja confessed to poaching 20 rhinos within a span of six years until 2010 in Chitwan. He had also injured five rhinos and was involved in the trade of two rhino horns.
Praja was deported to Nepal by the Malaysian government after he was found to be living there illegally for the last four years under a fake citizenship and the alias of Bhaktaraj Giri. In 2013 the Nepal government had slapped a fifteen-year jail sentence on him for wildlife crimes.
The government of Nepal through its enforcement agencies and collaboration with conservation partners such as WWF and the local communities has stepped up efforts against dismantling the network of poachers and wildlife criminals within and outside the protected areas. Praja’s arrest follows the success of Nepal achieving 365 days of zero poaching in both 2011 and the period ending February 2014.
Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal said: “The capture and jailing of Nepal’s most wanted poacher shows how serious the government is about tackling wildlife crime and how determined it is to ensure that poaching kingpins, like Raj Kumar Praja, pay for their crimes.WWF Nepal congratulates the work of the Nepalese and Malaysian governments and INTERPOL, showing that poachers and wildlife traffickers can run but they can’t hide. Poaching still remains a threat to Nepal’s endangered wildlife, but Praja’s arrest is another major step on the road to zero-poaching.”
Heather Sohl, Chief Species Adviser, WWF-UK said: “The success in bringing this notorious poacher to justice demonstrates how crucial cooperation between governments and international agencies is in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. WWF hopes the Kasane Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade to be held next month will further garner such collaboration and result in even more such successes.”
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