The Khata Forest Conservation Area is the recipient of the 2021 Conservation Excellence Award, an award that recognises sites that have made significant contributions to tiger conservation.
The Khata Forest Conservation Area is a wildlife corridor that enables tigers and other wildlife to travel safely between Nepal and India. The corridor is now thriving thanks to the work of citizen scientists, forest guards, local organisations and government agencies who understand that people benefit when we protect nature. The award also celebrates the increase in the tiger population here. In July 2012 a camera trap study identified 37 individual tigers using the Khata Forest Conservation Area - a marked increase from 18 tigers detected in 2009.
The journey to restore the corridor began in 2001 when the Khata Forest Conservation Area had just one small 115 hectare patch of forest and was home to a community who was adverse to increased conservation measures. The land had been degraded and cleared for settlements and agriculture, and had been uncontrollably grazed by cattle.
2001 was also the year when Nepal’s landmark landscape level approach to conservation was initiated – led by the government of Nepal with partners such as WWF. The aim of the approach was to put communities at the heart of conservation while also ensuring wildlife had a connected habitat to move freely through.
The journey to restoring Khata began by allocating land areas and forming community groups who managed each allotted area as community forests. Years passed, seasons changed and the land soon came alive with visible sightings of wildlife.
One Shared Home
Over the years progress has continued. Alternate energy programs through biogas, a clean cooking fuel from animal dung, helped replace household reliance on firewood to reduce the pressure on Khata’s forests. Sustainable livelihood schemes helped fund household and community enterprises such as homestays, while marmelos juice and other products were produced as alternate income opportunities for people dependent on forest resources.
Community-based anti-poaching units were created to help drive down poaching cases and have done so with great success. From just 115 hectares of forest to 3,800 hectares which encompasses more than 6,000 community members who are stewards of their land, the tide eventually turned for the wildlife and people who call the Khata Forest Conservation Area home.
In two decades the combined efforts of communities, local organisations and government agencies have turned this degraded patch of land into a thriving wildlife corridor for tigers and a whole range of other wildlife.
These awards are supported by CA|TS, Fauna & Flora International, Global Tiger Forum, IUCN, Panthera, UNDP The Lion’s Share, WCS and WWF.