Call of the wildLocal communities play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity
The Eastern Himalayan region, of which Nepal is also a part of, is extremely rich in biodiversity. Recently more than 200 new species have been found in the region, according to the latest study, ‘Hidden Himalayas: Asia’s Wonderland’, by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The study revealed that from 2009 to 2014, 211 new species of animals and plants have been discovered in the region that encompasses Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan, Myanmar and parts of India’s Bengal and North-East states. The study, however, emphasises that climate change, pollution, illegal hunting, fishing along with construction of new dams, are threats to the species living in the area. Worringly, this region also consists of the four globally-threatened mammals—the Asian elephant, one-horned rhinoceros, wild water buffalo and Bengal tiger—all of which are also found in Nepal.
Biodiversity conservation has been a concern for Nepal and efforts have been made to address that. Almost 20 percent of the country has been turned into protected areas as national parks, conservation areas and wildlife reserves. In spite of these efforts, animal poaching had to be dealt with separately. To a great extent, Nepal has been successful in that area: there has been no poaching of rhinos for the past three years and tigers for last two years in the country. That
Nepal has been doing a commendable work in the field of conservation should encourage the government to do more.
Now that the illegal killing of tigers and rhinos are under control, it is time to prioritise other animals that face threat from poaching. For example, pangolin, an endangered species, has become a new target for killing and smuggling in Nepal. Even so, animal poaching is just one of many problems facing the wildlife. More efforts are needed in conserving the natural habitats of the animals and protecting the biodiversity as a whole by involving local communities. For instance, communities in a few districts of eastern Nepal have been actively engaged in conservation of red pandas, in areas beyond national parks or reserves. The Community-Based Red Panda Monitoring and Conservation under the Red Panda Network has been working since 2007 to mobilise local awareness and action to protect the endangered animals through habitat management and sustainable livelihoods. Similar efforts can be replicated for many other species in other parts of Nepal. Linking income generating incentives like eco-tourism would also motivate communities to work with the government and other agencies. Additionally, transboundary cooperation and efforts are also required as these species, some of which are endemic to the Himalayas, are not restricted by manmade borders.