Even with its precarious law and order situation and excessive focus on getting its politics right in this prolonged phase of transition, last one year has been particularly good for Nepal when it comes to conserving endangered species. The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Wildlife Crime Scoreboard released earlier this month lauded Nepal’s efforts in preservation of its tiger, rhino and elephant populations, making the country among the best performers in the club of 23 Southern African and Asian countries under the study’s preview. WWF praised Nepal for instituting effective measures against illegal trading of endangered wildlife species and their parts. Shortly after, on World Tiger Day on Sunday, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) reported that the number of big cats in Nepal has increased to 176 (from 155 in 2010). This means the country is on course to achieve the 2010 target of doubling its tiger population by 2022.
But these numbers have to be taken with a pinch of salt as they are approximates calculated by bringing together the results of separate counting of tiger populations at different habitats. It will be possible to arrive at more realistic numbers only when counting is conducted at all protected areas simultaneously. But even if the latest government figures are close to actual numbers on the ground, there is so much more that can be done to make conservation efforts even more effective. For instance, despite the successes in curbing poaching, on an average five tigers are still being killed each year by poachers in Nepal. Deployment of additional conservation officials on the ground, as DNPWC plans to do, is expected to help. So will measures like adequate compensations for the families of those killed or injured by tigers and other endangered animals, so as to minimize conflicts between human and animal populations.
It has been found that those involved in killing the endangered one-horn rhinos are often the same ones involved in killing tigers, and other endangered species. This implies that any program to minimize poaching of any one animal can benefit conservation of other endangered beings as well. The success of last one year has been largely attributed to the establishment of specialized wildlife crime cells and increased coordination between concerned government agencies, all contributing to making 2011 a “zero poaching year” for rhinos and a year which saw reduction in poaching of other endangered animals. In the future such coordination involving government security agencies, conservation authorities and local communities will need to be further enhanced. But for greater effectiveness of conservation efforts, it is important that regional anti-poaching and illegal trade control mechanisms also be made more effective.
As most of the illegal animal parts end up in China, the country’s cooperation will be crucial to dissuade the poachers and traffickers operating along the India-Nepal-China corridor, so will greater vigilance on movement of animal parts along the porous Indo-Nepal border. With the country’s endangered animals still dying, this certainly is no time for Nepal to rest on its laurels