Result of conflict: Wildlife in danger
Nepal’s biodiversity is widely known as ‘rich’. However, since the inception of the Maoist conflict, our biodiversity has been severely affected. Each and every aspect of society has been damaged, and questions for recovery have been posed from time to time.
As the Maoist conflict went on rising in the last decade, most of protected areas came under threat. Security personnel deputed for protection of national parks and reserves were unable to provide protection as they themselves did not feel secure enough and felt vulnerable to mines and Maoist attacks inside forests.
The warring parties avoided entering into direct combat and took to defensive tactics in many protected area as reported in media. From time to time, they tried to penetrate the core area of forests in so-called different operations, and as a result wildlife was affected and victimised.
Wildlife was badly disturbed by such actions. As wild animals mostly depends on the forest
food chain system for food, mammals unable to find prey and were seen in nearby villages in search of food.
Most of the protected areas were disturbed as a result of being converted into battlefield or due to setting up of camps. People involved in such operations killed the animals for meat, including birds like kalij and mayur, deer, wild boar and others.
The conflict also had a big impact on the new generation of wildlife as these were not in
a secure position, and had to shift location often. The Indian media had even reported that some big animals like the rhinos were seen in the bordering areas of national parks at Katarniyaghat due to severe disturbances in Nepal.
And the poachers and illegal wildlife traders celebrated the time as a golden decade.
There’s a huge market for tigers, leopard skins and bones, and rhino horns and other wildlife derivatives. Nepal has the sternest laws to control illegal wildlife trade in South Asia, but the situation unfortunately made it a transit point for such trade. Insurgency has not only affected the fauna, but also the flora. Wild plants that have medicinal and aronomatic values were also targeted for their commercial value.
During the decade of conflict, major rhino translocations to Bardiya National Parks and Suklaphata Reserve were made by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation together with other partners. Investment was high without studying the effects of its previous contribution. Most of the time, closed-room projects are good just to spend money, not useful in contribution towards biodiversity. Rhino translocation project is among the best examples of monitoring and evaluation lapse. Thus, what was done in the past needs to be evaluated before continuing a project in future.
Recent media reports revealed that only three translocated rhinos were able to survive in Babai valley out of 72 rhinos released there under the programme. Continuation of the translocation programme for a decade without evaluation and monitoring shows the failure of the programme. The same report also pointed out that out of 13 tigers reported in Babai valley in 2001, only three were spotted by the team.
This is about species that we know. For many species we do not have a mechanism to keep a record of their population data.
Nepal is known for her rich biodiversity and foreigners mostly come to see our biodiversity. If we cannot maintain our biodiversity, we might have to suffer financial losses on a large scale.
Finally, the army and the Maoists should remember the insurgency has badly affected
our protected area system. Poachers and illegal wildlife traders have been continuously harvesting richly, and if not stopped, we might lose our precious jewel of wildlife.
It is time enough that we controlled poaching and illegal trade with practical anti-poaching programmes and Wildlife Action Plan. What we need are community-based projects and plans. There is a need to amend our National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 to adjust our international commitment to CITES and WTO. A proper Wildlife Action Plan and a
high-level wildlife committee consisting of members from different related discipline is also the need of the day.