TOPICS:A new threat to bio-diversity in Nepal

The term bio-piracy is in vogue these days, along with the even more common ‘bio-theft. The sale or exchange of live or dead wild animals or plants, their parts, products or related articles can be defined as wildlife trade. If the trade violates national and international legislations, it is called illegal trade in wildlife. The history of wildlife trade runs back several centuries. But illegal trade in wildlife, particularly those of the endangered species has increased in the recent past. Today illegal trading in wildlife occupies the second place among other illicit trades (after narcotics trade) in the world.

In addition to traditional animals, trading in plant species, medicinal plant, and gene piracy has emerged as new sectors for the bio pirates, mainly in biodiversity rich tropical and sub-tropical regions like Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Latin America, and Costa Rica, all rich in traditional medicinal practices based on indigenous knowledge.

In the case of Nepal, the Western Development Region, Mid-western Development Region

and Far Eastern Development Region are highly diverse in bio resources. Nepal is also endemic to a number of attractive flora and fauna species found in South Asia. Nepal has a well documented record of its major flora (compiled in a scientific manner) and has identified at least 5,891flowering species, in addition to 4,216 species of other lower plants.

The number of flowering species in the world is over 250,000. Similarly, Nepal is rich in fauna, it being home to over 4.37 per cent mammals and 8.5 per cent bird species.

The value of Nepali wildlife for agriculture, scientific experimentation, ornaments, medicine industry has also enhanced the country’s image. Besides, Nepal has identified at least 1,463 flowering species for medical purposes.

For the abovementioned reasons, Nepal has become a major target of animal and plant hunters around the world. In Nepal, almost all the wildlife collected from their natural habitats are exported because local trade in wildlife is negligible, other than in timber and small amount of medicinal plants.

What does a nation lose from over-exploitation of wildlife? Analysis by leading personalities in bio-diversity around the world shows that commercial exploitation is the second biggest threat to survival of wild species. The country is not benefiting as it does not get due revenue from wildlife resources, especially since income from these dealings is very high. Even while the country is not getting a good return, the damage done to the environment as a result of the country’s bio resources is greater and greater everyday.

Loss of endemism, breakdown of ecological balance, genetic drift, habitat destruction due to adverse collecting practices, destruction of natural beauty are some of the ill effects. Finally, over-exploration causes disappearance of natural heritage completely. That will spell a disaster for Nepal.

Karunarathna is with Bio-Diversity Vigilance Committee, Sri Lanka