Local communities fleecing hunters in Dhorpatan

KATHMANDU: Professional hunters who come to hunt the blue sheep (Naur) and Himalayan thar (Jharal) in the only hunting reserve of the nation, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, are forced to pay more than six-fold to local communities than they pay to the government.

"A hunter has to pay Rs 40,000 and Rs 20,000 for hunting a blue sheep and Himalayan thar each to the government but they are compelled to pay Rs 2.50 lakhs extra to various communities otherwise they are not allowed to hunt despite having license," said Madhav Parajuli, an official at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Reserve (DNPWC).

There are only four professional hunters in the country. Raju Thapa, Mahesh Basnet, Bir Bahadur Lama, Deepak Rana and some foreigners come along with them twice at Dhorpatan for hunting once during October- November and then during March-April. Some twelve foreign hunters received hunting license this year and 10 among them are already in the reserve for hunting. Among twelve, nine are Americans, two Russians and one Bulgarian.

DNPWC admits that the hunters are forced to pay extra."The demand of the locals cannot be denied for it needs political consensus. But the hunters are getting trouble due to their huge demands," said Shivaraj Bhatta, spokesperson, DNPWC.

Blue sheep and Himalayan Thar census is done once in every five years and considering the number of the animals, the reserve decides whether or not to allow hunting. Every year there is a specific quota for hunting. DNPWC has allocated 26 Blue Sheeps and 16 Himalayan Thars for this year. Each Hunter can hunt a Blue Sheep and a Himalayan Thar each within a time period of three weeks in a season.

The hunters bring the guns and bullets with them from their own countries and have to receive a license from the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The hunters are allowed to take the animal skin and horns of the animal along with them to their countries. There are seven areas in the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve specified by the department and hunters can choose the area they would want to hunt.

Parajuli who coordinates with the preparation of documents for licensing the hunters at DNPWC said, "The hunters have already warned that if they will have to pay extra for hunting they may not continue hunting."