OPINION: It’s not enough

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN)- Wildlife survey in national parks are welcome, but that alone will not suffice

Nepal is bestowed with a rich diversity of wildlife and scenic landscapes. This Himalayan paradise is not only known for the Mount Everest, but it also caters accommodation to some of the world’s most elusive animals such as snow leopard to large predators like the tiger. The rich and varied habitats omnipresent in Nepal, ranging from the ice-bound peaks and foothills to the dense forest to the lowland Terai with elongated river valleys, Nepal encompasses everything. The unique geographical location of the country facilitates a great variation in its climatic conditions that varies from tropical to artic. As a result, Nepal has accommodated a diverse range of species which includes 850 recorded species of wild birds, and 185 species of mammals. In addition to that, Nepal is also home to some of the worlds endangered animals including one-horned rhinoceros, musk deer, leopard, and Himalayan black bear.

The tiger census

Nepal is infamous for political instability, the ubiquitous natural disaster and  as one of the world’s poorest nations in the world. However, due to the restrictions in the proper channeling of information, as well as the less significance given to the coverage of environmental sector, the achievements garnered in the conservatory fields have not been highlighted. Nepal, one of the 12 countries to host the snow leopard, has made historic strides last year by successfully launching its first-ever, climate-smart snow leopard landscape management plan. Similarly, the country has taken conservatory strides by launching various animal census in various parts of Nepal, including the recent tiger census that was held in namely  Chitwan, Parsa, Banke and Bardiya, the four major national parks in Nepal.

By devising a method called the camera trapping, the DNPWC (Department of National parks and wildlife Conservation) has successfully completed the first phase of tiger census in Chitwan and Parsa national parks. Similarly, WWF Nepal in a joint venture with National Trust for Nature Conservation, and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has completed the first phase of tiger survey in the Terai arc landscape (TAL), which encompasses five protected areas, along with corridors and adjoining forest that is in close proximity with TAL. National parks such as Chitwan, Bardia, Banke, Shuklaphanta and Parsa have conducted tiger survey from November 2017 until March 2018. The tiger population was estimated with the help of camera trap, line transect, and occupancy surveys and prey abundance and density, deploying 1,600 cameras and 400 personnel. Laxman Prasad Poudyal, an ecologist at DNPWC, has emphasised on the globally renowned and accepted mathematical counting technique--“Mark and Recapture” used for tiger population estimation in Nepal, that despite its conventional time-consuming methods, yields 95 percent accuracy.  

Challenges ahead

The tiger survey is highly dependent on the smooth functioning of the installed camera.  However, around 67 sophisticated cameras that were installed around the close vicinities in Chitwan and Parsa National Park have been recorded to be missing.  The cameras were installed to track the movement of tigers. According to the conservation officer at the Chitwan National Park, cameras have been stolen by local people to pacify their inquisitiveness, as well as by smugglers. Animals such as wild elephants also have a major role in their disappearance as cameras have been constantly pulled down and trampled by the wild elephants. On the other hand, the installed closed-circuit camera has not been functioning accurately rendering failed footage. The cameras installed along the wildlife corridor in Chitwan have captured the frequent occurrence of parked vehicles, people urinating and defecating, disposing waste materials as well as cases of vehicles hitting animals due to negligence in driving. According to the Armed Forest Guard Training Centre, the cameras have been dysfunctional at times owing to power shortage.

Four rare tigers have been reported to be dead in Chitwan National Park, obstructing the government’s plan of doubling tiger census by 2022. The lack of adequate space required for the free movement of the tiger attributes to  tiger’s death, as the paucity of free space available has resulted in frequent fights among tigers in Chitwan.The Chitwan National Park has initiated the usage of surveillance using CC Cameras for the effective conservation of wildlife. In alignment with effective CCTV surveillance, awareness generating programmes in conjunction with the participation of the national park officials, army, forest guards and representatives from organisations were organised prior to the launch of the campaign. In addition, the drivers on the road were well informed about the campaign and legal action was warned in the case of disobedience to the wildlife corridor rules and regulations. The programme rendered successful outcomes, as waste disposal was managed, and the drivers stopped parking their vehicles. However, the campaign gradually lost its importance and attention towards the campaign dwindled gradually.

“The transboundary arc landscape adjoining land between India and Nepal accommodate highest densities of tigers in the world, and has become a matter of global priority for tiger conservation” stated Dr. Ghana Shyam Gurung, the newly appointed country representative of WWF Nepal. Dr. Gurung with years of experience working as a Senior Conservation Program Director of WWF Nepal, exclaimed: “Protecting wild tigers and their forest homes are integral to other threatened species, and it provides critical goods and services to people.

 Despite hopeful trends for wildlife survey, there is much to be desired to protect the species and their vulnerable habitats, which are at the brink of extinction due to the unrelenting pressures from poaching, retaliatory killings, and habitat encroachment. Saving wild tigers automatically helps in safeguarding the critical benefits for other species, and millions of people. According to the newly published WWF report, securing the safety of tiger landscapes would help in protecting the last remaining forests essentially critical for the sequestration of carbon. As a corollary, it would also help mitigate the ongoing climate change, as well as render effective regulation and provision of freshwater.

Sherpa is an Environmental Science graduate from Nami College

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  • Opinion: It’s not enough

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