Monsoon affects wildlife monitoring in Shuklaphanta National ParkMost roads through the national park have turned muddy and unmotorable, obstructing the movement of conservationists, workers and security personnel inside the protected area.
The monsoon season has brought yet another challenge to wildlife conservation in Shuklaphanta National Park.
Most of the roads through the national park have turned muddy and unmotorable, obstructing the movement of conservationists, workers and security personnel inside the protected area for the effective monitoring of wildlife. This may lead to an increase in cases of poaching and timber smuggling, conservationists say.
“It is not easy to patrol the area during the rainy season. We cannot reach every part of the park since there is dense overgrowth in the forests. Poachers and smugglers could take advantage of this situation,” said Dil Bahadur Purja Pun, the chief conservation officer at the national park.
According to Pun, since the roads inside the park are not motorable, park officials have to patrol the vast grasslands on foot, which is not always possible.
Patrolling on elephants is the only way to move around in the forests during the monsoon but the national park does not have enough tamed tuskers for the purpose.
The Shuklaphanta National Park should have ten elephants dedicated for patrolling but it currently has only six. Among them, one is sick and unable to go on patrols and another one is old.
“We can use only four elephants now and they are not enough to patrol all the area of the park. We are trying our best to patrol by making use of the available resources. But the monitoring and surveillance of all the areas are not possible during the rainy season,” said Pun.
In the absence of patrolling teams, the park has to rely on surveillance cameras installed in several places across the park. Camera surveillance has been of great help in monitoring wildlife movement and illegal human activities, park officials say.
“With the help of surveillance cameras, we could detain a hunter a few days ago who entered the park area with three guns. But digital surveillance may not be enough to deter people from entering the park for illegal purposes,” said the chief conservation officer.
According to him, four smugglers were arrested in the past two weeks with the help of surveillance cameras.
Shuklaphanta National Park borders the Lagga-Bagga Reserve Forest of India, which touches Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, a major tiger habitat in India. There is a high risk of poaching of wildlife and smuggling of animal body parts, as dense human settlements are scattered around the conservation areas both in Nepal and India.
Many people have been arrested with tiger pelts from this area.
“The risk of wildlife poaching is high, as there are human settlements in the buffer zone area near the park. But we are trying our best to monitor the area by using our available resources,” said Pun.
The Shuklaphanta National Park spreading across a 305 square kilometres area is home to 2,300 swamp deer, 17 tigers, as many rhinos and various species of flora. Rare bird species like the lesser adjutant, bengal florican, white-rumped vulture, sarus crane, and finn’s weaver are also found in the park.
Laxmi Raj Joshi, chief of Shuklaphanta Conservation Programme of National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), says the park is an important protected area famed for its abundance of deer, tigers, rhinos and other exotic species.
He underscored the need of strengthening security to preserve the floras and faunas in the park.
“We have been conducting regular census of various wildlife since April. This has helped us keep a check on illegal activities inside the park. We conducted a rhino census in the month of April and recently held a census of swamp deer and tigers and their prey,” said Joshi.