NEPAL. Chitwan, Bagmati Pradesh. Illegal harvesting of wildlife species has many ecological and social consequences. In fact, the illegal wildlife parts trade is the modern-day key-threat to biodiversity conservation, in addition to habitat destruction. Global illegal wildlife trade also has been rising and today it is estimated to be worth US$7- 10 billion per year. This hinders investments in tourism and other types of development and also greatly threatens the ecosystem and biodiversity.
In India subcontinent too, poaching has been a cause of concern. Various countries have approached the issue differently. Nepal has also been facing problems with poaching of its iconic species like the rhinos, tigers, and leopards, etc. and have already classified them “endangered” under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029.
Nepal has 10 national parks, 3 natural reserves, and 6 protected areas which account for 23% of the land area in the country. It should be noted here that quite a few states in the USA are smaller than this area.
Measures taken to stop poaching. Extraordinary work has been done in Nepal in the field of conversation of wildlife. Mr. Saket in conversation with The Transcontinental Times, said -” Nepal has proved that poaching is stoppable. And we have shown this to the world by reporting four zero rhino poaching years in the past – 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016.” Saket is a naturalist at Barahi Jungle Lodge in Meghauli village, Chitwan National Park (CNP). He further explained that a year is designated as a Zero Poaching Year if there is no evidence of killing for trade for a continuous 365 days.
Similar views that Zero Poaching is achievable were echoed by the Ministry of Forests and Environment officials in Kathmandu. The officials added, “Zero poaching is a remarkable achievement and has allowed us to launch other projects to conserve its rhinos, like translocation of animals from one park to another. The successful recovery of wildlife, particularly the rhino population in Nepal, is a testament to our strong commitment to biodiversity conservation.”
The Director-General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation of Nepal further informed The Transcontinental Times that, “The greater one-horned rhinoceros has always been the symbol of Nepal’s rich biological heritage. Nepal in fact has the second largest population in South Asia. Today there are 650 rhinos spread over different national parks; about 600 in CNP, and the other 50 scattered across Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Bardiya and Shuklaphanta national parks.”
CNP was established in 1973 to control the declining rhino population. Nepal’s subsequent conservation efforts incorporated several strategies which included strict law enforcement, 24-hour army patrols in sensitive areas, the involvement of frontline conservation warriors, installation of CCTV cameras, strengthening of existing security posts, and establishment of new security posts in strategic locations. Awareness campaigns and conservation efforts through community-based anti-poaching units have also helped to achieve a number of zero rhino poaching years.
Only one poaching was reported in the year 2016, and thereafter no official data of poaching is available. Even locals say that there has been no poaching from 2017 to 2019 too.
Declines due to natural causes. Deaths have been reported during all these years, but all due to natural causes. Officials at CNP Conservation Office confirm that there has been a steep rise in the number of rhino deaths in recent years. The abnormal mortality rate is linked to a number of causes, old age, fights over females following territorial battles due to loss of habitat, illness, getting trapped in quicksand, during birth, drowning, electric shocks and injuries, and other undetermined reasons.
Some injured rhinos die because of a lack of medical facilities in the park. To counter this, Nepal is devising a first-of-its-kind wildlife hospital in Chitwan, to ensure proper treatment for injured wild animals.
Results of conservation efforts. The efforts of conservation and anti-poaching measures have shown good results. The good news from Nepal is that the rhino crash (herd of rhinos) has recently grown by more than 21 percent. Other animals in Nepal’s parks have also been thriving; the tiger population has doubled in recent years. There also was a plan to compile a census on rhinos too in 2019.