Wild animals get much-needed break as the country is under lockdownNational parks across the country have been closed as the country stalls almost all the activities to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19.
The government suspended non-essential services and imposed a nationwide lockdown to protect people from the Covid-19 pandemic, but the measures also benefit wild animals, conservationists say.
Thousands of people from Nepal and beyond visit the country’s national parks, including Chitwan, every year. While the fees tourists pay are an important source of revenue for the parks, they affect wild animals’ habitats, experts say adding that a halt in the inflow of tourists due to the lockdown could benefit wildlife.
“The current situation, though not ideal from economic and humanitarian perspectives, is a boon for wildlife and the environment,” said Yadav Ghimirey, a wildlife researcher and conservation biologist at Friends of Nature. “Wildlife will take care of itself if the humans don’t disturb their habitat.”
Nepal’s national parks have been popular for tourism activities such as jungle safari, jungle walk, hiking, trekking, and adventure sports. Such activities go on throughout the year. At Chitwan National Park area alone, more than 50 vehicles run jeep safaris for visitors every day.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation—the government body overseeing the management of protected areas—on Sunday, asked all parks to stop issuing tickets as it was not an essential service.
Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, spokesperson for the department, said that despite this, regular monitoring and patrolling of protected areas continues.
“For wildlife, this is definitely a perfect time to roam freely,” said Shrestha.
The country’s protected areas, especially in the Tarai region, welcome a large number of domestic and foreign tourists every year. The national parks are home to various wild species such as tigers, elephants and rhinos.
According to Prakash Upreti, information officer at Chitwan National Park, the most popular among the parks, Chitwan welcomed over 187,000 visitors last fiscal year.
Chitwan National Park was closed on Monday. “We convened an emergency meeting among stakeholders after Sauraha was closed on Sunday. We decided to stop all the tourism activities inside the park for now,” said Upreti.
As the government stepped up measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak by shutting offices, schools and colleges, Chitwan witnessed more visitors than normal, raising concerns about a potential spread of the disease.
“Following the meeting, we decided to shut down services. The decision is good for both the public and wildlife,” said Upreti. “While it will prevent human to human and wildlife to human infection, it will also provide relief to wildlife in their natural habitat.”
Ghimire added that cases of roadkill along the highways, traversing protected areas, would also decrease as vehicles remain off the road for some time.