US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU509

MAOIST AMBUSH MARS ANNUAL RHINO RELOCATION

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU509
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU509 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-03-11 13:19:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: SENV PGOV PTER EAID ASEC SOCI NP Maoist Insurgency
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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, Maoist Insurgency 
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 

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