Unsafe wildlifeStrong political commitment and strict law enforcement are vital for their conservation.
Poaching of precious wildlife has resumed in Nepal with the recent brutal killings of two female rhinos in separate man-made pits at Chitwan National Park. We are not even halfway through this fiscal year, and the park has already lost three rhinos. Further, a few days ago, three poachers were arrested in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve with two muskets, a pair of binoculars, and 102 sets of animal traps, among other hunting logistics. The number of incidents could be much higher than these reported events though, as many of them go under the rug, unreported.
The fact that rhinos in the Chitwan National Park were killed near the Chaparchuli security post in Sauraha speaks volumes, and it is only natural to suspect negligence (or worse) on the part of security personnel. Reportedly, Dhorpatan’s Rukum East area, which occupies around 60 percent of the hunting reserve, has no security post to oversee poaching and illegal hunting. The Bebi Baks Battalion of the Nepal Army is stationed only in the Patan area, the hunting reserve’s headquarters, making areas farther off safe for hunters. This has increased threats to wildlife and birds, in addition to boosting the smuggling of timber and medicinal herbs. Given such lax monitoring and inadequate number of security personnel, how will our wildlife ever be safe?
Nepal has had many success stories, including zero-poaching years between 2011 and 2018 when no rhinos were poached while the number of tigers went up too, but these gains are now under risk. When it came to working on zero-poaching of rhinos, the country put a lot of effort into forming community-based anti-poaching units and intelligence networks, employing a large number of security offices and human resources for wildlife protection and establishing bodies like the Wildlife Crime Control Coordination Committee and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. The government also used technologies like drones and real-time SMART patrolling to control illegal activities on wildlife. Unfortunately, at a time poaching of animals is ticking up alarmingly, and their security is more important than ever, the government’s efforts appear to be falling short.
Political commitment and strict law enforcement are vital for wildlife conservation. The government should identify areas with inadequate security personnel and give them proper training and equipment. Negligence should be punished, and security personnel who protect the poachers be held accountable. As important is working with local communities and rangers to strictly monitor forests and surrounding areas. With the dry months approaching, forests are at risk of wildfires, and fleeing animals are more vulnerable as they easily fall into the hands of the poachers outside their natural habitat. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), poverty-driven locals often turn to poaching. To curb this trend, community-based anti-poaching activities need to be strengthened and people helped to make money from wildlife tourism, sightseeing and jungle safari programmes instead. As important is to educate locals on forest conservation, wildlife prevention and the importance of their contribution to protecting animals.
Given the scale of poaching, time has come to abandon our complacency and devise new ways to protect animals. Reports show that poachers constantly develop novel strategies and sophisticated equipment while also bribing officials to bypass security. It is vital to stay ahead of them with increased patrols, surveillance mechanisms and by offering the right incentives for the right people. If not, we will have failed our rich and unique biodiversity.