By Sushil Sharma
BBC News, Kathmandu
Dozens of rare one-horned rhinos have gone missing in south-western Nepal in recent years, say conservationists.
The Asiatic rhino's horn is reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities
A recent census carried out at a national park in Bardiya suggested there were only 26 rhinos left. The number stood at 83 four years ago.
Rhinos have also dwindled in Chitwan park where the population has fallen to 405 from more than 500 in 2000.
Poachers are suspected to have killed the animal whose horn is sought after for its alleged aphrodisiac qualities.
Some reports have suggested that some rhinos may have moved across the borders to India, but a senior conservation official, Phanindra Kharel, has ruled that out.
Lack of security
The Kantipur newspaper quoted him as saying there was no chance of the rhinos moving out.
They had been transferred to Bardiya from Chitwan national park, in central Nepal, over the past two decades.
The translocation had been seen as a major conservation move.
Authorities say the poachers have capitalised on the lack of security caused by the long-running Maoist insurgency.
A number of security posts had been removed from the parks following the Maoist threat.
Security posts are being re-instated in and around national parks following a recent peace accord between the government and the Maoist rebels.