Bites at Animal Planet

27 Mar

It Takes a Country: Nepal’s Year of Zero Poaching

Contributed By Shubash Lohani, Deputy Director, Eastern Himalayas Program, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

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© Wim van Passel / WWF-Canon

Nepal recently celebrated a great achievement: 365 days of zero poaching. This means that there were zero killings of elephants, rhinos and tigers in the country. The New York Times even penned an op-ed about the feat.

Sadly, this is a rare achievement. Wildlife around the world is under threat due to demand for their parts for high-end luxury items, such as tiger-skin rugs, elephant ivory carvings and traditional medicine. This demand is emptying forests around the world that support both biodiversity and the livelihood of local communities.

Since 1970, Nepal has been considered a model for conservation when it brought rhinos and tigers back from the brink of extinction, when fewer than 100 of each of these animals remained in the country. By the beginning of this century, 612 rhinos and about 123 breeding tigers thrived in Nepal. However, the country has faced a grave poaching crisis in recent years. Between 2000 and 2005, at least 94 rhinos were killed in famed Chitwan National Park for example, resulting in a 31 percent decline in the park’s rhino population.

As the threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trade reemerged, Nepal took swift action in a major collaborative effort involving park authorities, army, police and local communities. This led to two years – 2011 and 2013 – of zero poaching.

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© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

Turning the tide of poaching was not easy. The government of Nepal, with assistance from organizations, such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) increased the number of guards on watch in protected areas; trained and equipped rangers for strategic anti-poaching patrols; and improved park infrastructure and engaged local communities in conservation.

The government also established a Wildlife Crime Control Bureau to combat illegal wildlife trafficking networks, often run by sophisticated crime syndicates. Together, 16 district cells of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Central Investigation Bureau of the national police helped to create a balance between central and local-level enforcement to break down illegal wildlife trafficking networks.

In local communities, youths organized community-based anti-poaching operation units and patrolled the forests outside of protected areas. They even assisted park authorities by reporting suspicious activity in their communities.

Guard Tower_Bardia_Matt Erke
Guard tower in Bardia National Park/Credit: Matt Erke/WWF-US

The Nepalese government is also exemplifying the value of wildlife by giving 50 cents of every tourist dollar to local communities, creating more value for rhinos and tigers alive than dead.  

The culmination of these efforts led to a conservation milestone for Nepal – one that we hope will be replicated in other poaching hotspots around the world.

You can learn more and see what action you can take to stop wildlife crime here.

For more Animal Planet content on similar but not related work in saving rhinos, click below:

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