Symposium: Towards Zero Poaching
Nepal, the small Himalayan country that likens itself to a yam caught between two stones (with China to the north and India to the south), has been able to achieve 365 days of zero poaching not once, not twice… but four times!
Nepal first achieved this amazing conservation feat in 2011, when it recorded a whole year of zero poaching of rhinos – a trend that has been maintained for the past two years (2015 and 2016). In 2014, Nepal was the first country in the world to achieve zero poaching of its three flagship species: tigers, rhinos and elephants.
These efforts made Nepal the natural host for Asia’s Symposium: Towards Zero Poaching. The conference brought brought together delegates from 13 countries across Asia as well as experts from local and international NGO’s and partners, with the aim of sharing best practice knowledge from different sectors in the effort to combat the escalating illegal wildlife trade.
So how exactly did Nepal achieve zero poaching?
Conservation of Nepal’s rich biodiversity has a prominent spot on the national agenda. Nepal now has 10 national parks, three wildlife reserves, and six conservation areas that cover more than 13,000 square miles — 23% of the country — an area larger than the US state of Maryland. Nepal also shares the Terai Arc Landscape with India, one of the most biologically important areas on earth that is home to tigers, rhinos, elephants and Gangetic dolphins.
Nepal’s leadership has taken important steps to protect nature through bodies like the National Tiger Conservation Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister of Nepal. The Wildlife Crime Control Coordination Committee is led by the Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation with representatives from enforcement and security agencies such as Nepal Army and Nepal Police. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, a body represented by enforcement agencies that could help control wildlife crime, now has 16 district cells that has improved enforcement in order to stop poaching and curb wildlife crime.
By 2008, the government of Nepal had handed over approximately one-third (28%) of the country’s forests to local communities to manage, which has helped to save forests and wildlife, and reduce poverty. Community-based antipoaching units, originally set up to reduce the level of poaching of tigers and rhinos, have quickly become involved in monitoring trafficking of other wild flora and fauna. Today, there are more than 400 units working throughout the country, which patrol critical areas like wildlife corridors and are vital information sources on illegal activity.
Wildlife crime knows no boundaries. Nepal is not only a “source” for high-value wildlife, it is also a known transit country for illegal wildlife products heading to China and other consumer countries. The country is tackling transnational wildlife crime through various ways, including MoU with China and resolution with India on biodiversity conservation and addressing illegal wildlife trade control, and regional mechanisms such as the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network.
Nepal has always sought to improve on both its successes and failures. The country was an early adopter of technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to improve anti-poaching operations within protected areas. They have also embraced Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tools (SMART), a site-based approach used to monitor and improve the effectiveness of conservation management. Specially trained sniffer dogs are being deployed in national parks to assist the park staff and Nepal Army in anti-poaching patrols.
Organisations like WWF have been at the forefront of efforts to engage young Nepalis. WWF spearheaded conservation education efforts like school-based Eco Clubs. Today, there are over 500 in the country with nearly 80,000 children who are becoming a force for nature within their own communities. Nepal has been successful in inspiring new audiences to care about nature thanks to celebrities like Miss Nepal and movie star Rajesh Hamal.