How do you define the current status of species conservation in Nepal with reference to wildlife trade?
Nepal is known to be one of the most successful countries when it comes to species conservation programs. The anti-poaching efforts in Nepal is a testament to the integrated efforts of the Government of Nepal, enforcement agencies, local communities and conservation organizations such as WWF. Looking back, the year 2010 laid the foundations to Nepal’s wildlife crime control strategy. Despite several political transitions since 2010, curbing wildlife crime has been a priority for every government that came to power. Over this period of six years, various government-led institutions like National Tiger Conservation Committee (NTCC), Wildlife Crime Control Coordination Committee (WCCCC), and the Wildlife Crime Coordination Bureau (WCCB) and its district cells for coordinating and implementing law enforcement have been established. Likewise, institutionalization of a separate specialized pillar to look after wildlife crime under the Nepal Police, and transboundary cooperation with China and India are some of the significant steps which resulted in achieving four distinct 365-day periods without a single case of rhino poaching recorded.
How was celebrating zero poaching for the fourth time since 2011 possible for Nepal and what should be done to sustain the success?
This success is the best example of what we call “together possible”. The endorsement of the wildlife crime control strategy in 2010 garnered the commitment of the highest political authority, the prime minister of Nepal, national and international conservation organizations, grassroots communities and enforcement agencies to work together to combat poaching. Nepal’s success also largely rests on the stringent enforcement measures within and outside the protected areas by the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and local communities complemented by the use of cutting-edge technologies. Round the clock surveillance of protected areas by the Nepal Army, breaking down the illegal trade nexus right from the ground to the international level by the Nepal Police together with international enforcement agencies and Community Based Anti-Poaching Units (CBAPU), and the use of tools and technologies such as Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV), sniffer dogs, SMART-eye and Real time SMART Patrolling have made the conservation efforts more effective and efficient. While achieving this success did not come easily, it would be all the more difficult to sustain it. For this, Nepal will require ample resources and unity of purpose among all the stakeholders. Likewise, our multi-agency integrated efforts must be continued and together with further emphasis on strengthening and promoting regional and trans-boundary cooperation.
Nepal is a transit hub for trading wildlife parts. What are Nepal’s efforts in strengthening trans-boundary cooperation with China and India to mitigate wildlife trade in the region?
Nepal is a source as well as transit country for trading wildlife parts given its location between India and China. Hence, regional and trans-boundary cooperation is crucial to break the demand and supply chain of wildlife trafficking. Considering the illegal trade of wildlife parts, a series of trans-boundary meetings between neighboring India and China started since 1997. Later in the year 2010, a formal Memorandum of Understanding was signed with China and a similar resolution with India on biodiversity conservation. Regular local and central level meetings and dialogues were frequently held between Nepal and its neighbors. Nepal is also a member of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) and hosts its Secretariat.
What should Nepal’s future outlook be in species conservation?
With the successful conservation measures, wildlife populations are on the rise in Nepal. An immediate challenge is expected to be rising cases of human-wildlife conflict which would require the attention of the government and its partners so that together with creating coexistence, the security of people and wildlife should also be maintained. Additionally, the growing development needs of the country and the focus on infrastructure development will need to be balanced whereby such development does not come at the cost of the environment.