A few years ago during my travel to Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan, I visited the Chitwan National Park in Southern Nepal. I was fortunate to have 2 encounters with wild rhinos, and learned about the country's efforts to halt poaching in the National Parks and remaining wild lands. I am very happy to read the below report published by Focusing on Wildlife and National Geographic. It is a huge achievement that no rhinos, tigers or elephants were killed during the last year. Moreover, in the 2011 census, the country reported a ~20% increase in the rhino population from 425 in 2008 to 534 animals, and an increase of tigers from 121 to 198 (2009 to 2013). But danger still lurks in this small mountain country between China in the north and India in the south since border control is difficult and organized crime focusing on wildlife trade could hone in on the increased numbers of rhinos and tigers.
However, for a small mountain country like Nepal the zero poaching is a huge achievement and needs to be celebrated!
Please read the full story below:
On World Wildlife Day, March 3,
celebrated 365 days with zero poaching. No rhinos, tigers, or elephants were
killed. It’s the second year of such success in Nepal . In 2011 the country also had
none, and in 2012 it lost just one rhino to poaching. Nepal
This achievement is particularly notable in the face of increased poaching elsewhere. Since February 28, according to press reports,
lost three rhinos to poachers in the span of one week in heavily guarded , and one
more in Game Reserve. Lake Nakuru
On February 28 in
South Africa, the epicenter of the rhino
poaching crisis, tourists in found a blinded and mutilated rhino
wandering alive. That horror prompted a social media storm and generated
intense interest from the Belgian ambassador to and senior members of
the European Parliament. (The personal secretary and aide to South Africa ’s
deputy prime minister was one of the tourists.) In Belgium last year, 1004 rhinos
were poached; so far this year, 146 have been poached. South Africa
Against this backdrop,
record stands out. Nepal
According to John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Nepal’s success is the result of “strong and committed leadership, excellent national collaboration among enforcement entities and with parks agencies, very effective engagement with local communities, and targeted intelligence-led enforcement actions leading to arrests of key players at the top of the criminal chain.”
More than 700 criminals were arrested for wildlife-related crimes this past year, including many “kingpins.”
“Efforts on the ground have been intensified, with rangers and the
patrolling protected areas with support from community-based antipoaching units
outside the parks,” notes Shubash Lohani, deputy director of the Eastern
Himalaya Ecoregion Program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Nepal
“In addition, active enforcement by the crime investigation bureau of
’s police has been crucial to
breaking down the presence of illegal networks.” Nepal
A joint operation in October 2013 by the Nepalese army and the special police led to the dismantling of a rhino poaching network and the arrest of Kathmandu-based kingpin Buddhi Bahadur Praja. Praja allegedly ran a cross-border smuggling enterprise from
Nepal to and
killed 12 rhinos over six years. Tibet
Also in December 2013, at
request INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for another notorious rhino poacher,
Rajkumar Praja, a 30-year-old Nepali wanted for killing 15 rhinos in . Praja was sentenced in
absentia to 15 years in prison. Chitwan National Park
Zero Tolerance for Wildlife Crime
“There is very much a zero-tolerance attitude to wildlife crime, whereby justice is often swift and harsh,” notes John Sellar, an anti-smuggling, fraud, and organized crime consultant and former CITES enforcement chief.
“Nepal’s forest law empowers district forest officers and chief wildlife wardens to deal with offenders and impose prison sentences of up to 14 or 15 years,” according to Sellar.
“Whilst this scenario might seem at odds with other judicial systems,” Sellar says, “probably its greatest advantage is that it means that any poacher who is caught can expect to be dealt with much quicker than in other countries suffering high levels of poaching, where court systems regularly have lengthy backlogs and where, currently, insufficient deterrence is present.”
efforts, its current estimated population of tigers in national parks increased
from 121 in 2009 to 198 in 2013, a promising uptick for a species that’s in
desperate trouble globally. Nepal
A 2011 census of
one-horned rhinos showed an estimated population of 534, up 20 percent from 425
in 2008, with more than 500 of them in . Chitwan National Park
The Nepalese army patrols the national parks to ensure their protection. But poaching increased during the Maoist insurgency from 1996 to 2006, when soldiers were redeployed and the number of army monitoring posts in and around the park fell from 30 to 7.
As a result, Chitwan’s rhino population reportedly fell from 612 rhinos in 2000 to some 380 in 2006, when a peace accord was signed.
Today, according to BBC reports, at least a thousand Nepalese soldiers patrol Chitwan from more than 40 posts.
At the national level,
Department of Forests, the country’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Conservation (DNPWC) anti poaching staff, and the Nepalese army all share
information and work together to fight wildlife poaching and trafficking. At
the local level, communities provide the DNPWC with information, which allows
officials to target poachers and dealers. Nepal
“There has been collaboration across the board in Nepal to stop poaching by putting more rangers on the ground in a cohesive, sophisticated way, actively enforcing anti-trafficking laws to break down networks, educating local communities, and building a shared ethic of conservation across Nepali society,” says WWF’s Lohani.
has ensured local communities benefit financially from the parks and
ecotourism. Those benefits come not only from employment, but also from sharing
revenue, such as entrance fees and license fees for tour and lodge companies,
with local people. Nepal
“The government actually gives 50 cents of every tourist dollar to local communities, which makes them hold more value for rhinos alive than dead,” Lohani notes.
Further, Nepalese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the National Trust for Nature Conservation, and international NGOs, such as WWF, have a long history of fruitful interaction with local communities. The result is citizens with a strong sense of ownership and commitment to wildlife protection.
Dedicated leadership at high levels has also been important.
’s prime minister chairs the
national wildlife crime control bureau. The country hosts the South Asia
Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) secretariat, and the director-general of
DNPWC serves as SAWEN’s chief enforcement coordinator. Nepal
was a major force in the early days of the Global Tiger Initiative, which
assists the 13 tiger range states in carrying out their conservation strategies
through planning, coordination, and communication. Nepal
“Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that
growing tiger and rhino populations will inevitably continue to be targets,”
Sellar warns. “Personally, my concern would be that we see the Nepal South Africa scenario replicated—i.e., heavily
armed and determined foreign gangs entering ’s national parks in search of
horns, skins, and ivory.” Nepal
of the dangers. Already, it has sought to employ the Wildlife and Forest Crime
Analytic Toolkit and collaborate with the International Consortium on Combating
Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to strengthen its approach to wildlife crime. Nepal
As Klairoong Poonpon, former chair of INTERPOL’s Wildlife Crime Working Group and senior technical officer of
Department of National Parks, summarizes, “ ’s remarkable achievement at
zero poaching for a second year gives lessons for other countries and hope for
the future of our wildlife.” Nepal
Til next time,
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