] Interpol just nabbed one of the world’s most wanted wildlife traffickers

The Nepalese ringleader of a rhino-poaching
ring has been arrested, after an almost two-year
long search by Interpol and local law
enforcement. Thirty-year-old Rajkumar Praja,
accused of shooting dead 19 endangered one-
horned rhinos ( http://www.zsl.org/zsl-whipsnade-zoo/exhibits/rhinos-of-nepal ) in
Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, was captured by
authorities in Malaysia ( http://www.interpol.int/en/News-and-media/News/2015/N2015-014 ) , where he had been
using a false name and passport.

Praja admitted to reporters that he had earned 4
to 4.5 million rupees ( http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2015/02/15/top-story/poacher-who-killed-20-rhinos/273247.html ) (about
$50,000) selling the horns, but said had not
saved any of the money. Rhino horns can
ultimately retail for more than $66,000/
kg ($30,000/lb), as Quartz has reported (http://qz.com/331644/2014-was-a-real-rhino-slaughtering-bonanza/ ) .

Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley is considered one of
the world’s major centers for the black
market wildlife trade, where parts of rhinos,
tigers, pandas, and other endangered animals
are trafficked to China and India, where they are
used for its purported (though actually non-
existent) medicinal and narcotic
properties. Between February 2013 and
February of last year, Nepalese authorities
seized 1,200 grams of tiger bone ( http://www.iucn.org/news_homepage/news_by_date/?14555/Nepal-celebrates-zero-poaching-year-for-rhino-tiger-and-elephant ) ,
as well as rhino horns and toes, leopard hides,
and panda hides.

But recently Nepal has made progress in protecting rare animals, who face extinction
due to poaching as well as destruction of their
habitats. Nepalese soldiers, locals, and
drones now patrol protected areas ( http://
environment-18527119 ) . Last year, the
country celebrated 365 days of zero poaching (
poaching-year-for-rhino-tiger-and-elephant )
of rhinos, tigers, or elephants. As of 2011, there
were 534 rhinos in Nepal, compared to less than
375 in 2005, when the country was recovering
from fighting with Maoist rebels.

The belated arrest of Praja is evidence of some
of those efforts. After escaping prison ( http://
sustainablenepal.org/notorious-rhino-poacher-from-nepal-now-an-international-fugitive-interpol-red-notice-issued/#.VOLkrrCUeyk ) in
Nepal after a 2006 arrest, Praja had evaded
authorities for years, hiding in Singapore and
then Malaysia. Interpol issued a “red notice (http://annamiticus.com/2013/12/09/interpol-red-notice-issued-for-nepalese-rhino-horn-trafficker-rajkumar-praja/ ) ,” or warrant, for
Praja in 2013 after he managed to escape a
mass arrest of his partners. He faces 15 years in

Author : Lily Kuo


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