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