And this success story by Nepal compelled the WWF Crime Hub to organize a study tour by high level government officials from East African countries to the landlocked country in South Asia located in the Himalaya.
Nepal introduced zero poaching after the country had lost 144 rhinos between 2002 and 2017.
The six-day study tour of Nepal attracted 12 delegates from East Africa, including officials from the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism from Tanzania, Kenya Wildlife Services, Uganda Wildlife Authority, and Rwanda Great Apes Trans boundary programme who were accompanied by WWF Kenya, WWF Tanzania and TRAFFIC Tanzania.
While in Nepal the visiting delegates from east Africa learned that anti-poaching in the South Asia country was wholly undertaken by the army.
In December 2017 a participant after he had listened to a presentation of WWF Zero poaching strategy in a trans-boundary environmental crime workshop organized by United Nations Development Propramme (UNDP) in Arusha reacted saying:
“This (zero poaching) is a tall order and impossible to achieve because of the complex nature and heavily funded international criminal syndicate.”
Dr Noah Sitati, a wildlife species expert and interim Ruvuma Landscape coordinator for WWF Tanzania Country Office, who was one of the delegates in the study tour, said the 8,000 Nepalese armymen are managing 12 parks on presidential order after high poaching incidences showed high level of discipline, passion and commitment to anti-poaching through regular daily patrols by foot, vehicle, bicycle, motorcycle and elephant rides.
“They also use sniffer dogs, tracker dogs, installed camera traps in the entire park and 24/7 monitoring of the screen to detect any illegal activities in the parks,” said Dr Sitati in an interview with The Guardian.
Clear records on man hours and man days used on patrol daily and area covered are kept, said the wildlife species expert.
Colonel Krishna Prasad Sapkota, the head of the Nepalese Directorate of National Parks and Wildlife Reserves army, said the amount of work involved is much more than the normal duty of the military hence de-motivating but the officers are rewarded by sending them to international peace keeping missions and are awarded certificates which are used for promotions.
Having a chance to view and interact with wildlife for free is another motivation especially for those who love nature, said the army colonel.
Nepal’s Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Man Bahadur Khadka, said: “We have a fantastic working relationship with the army and it demonstrates how Nepalese army’s dedication to conservation efforts is delivering clear results.”
All tourist facilities were removed from the parks to the outside when poaching was seen to be happening close to the facilities showing lack of support in anti-poaching efforts, said Dr Sitati.
He added: “This was also meant to reduce competition with the local community’s eco-tourism project.”
The adjacent local communities are involved in park management and have been allocated a buffer zone between the park and human settlement to manage and derive benefits apart from the 50 percent park revenue shared with the communities.
Dr Sitati said around the famous Chitwan National Park, which supports over 500 one horned rhinos, over 200 elephants and over 100 cheetahs, WWF supported the local communities to build home stays where visitors stay with families and every household derives between $250 and $400 per month with only 10 percent deducted for conservation and management purpose.
“Communities also have a hall and curio shop that brings in extra income apart from elephant ride game viewing into the community forest,” said Dr Sitati, adding: “The capacity of the households to maintain quality facilities and food has been built and standards maintained across all home stays.”
Over 200 youths are also actively involved in conservation programmes and have developed a passion for conservation. According to Chief Park Manager of Chitwan National Park Ram Chandra Kandel “a strong community support has helped to realize zero poaching. This is as a result of direct benefits they receive from tourism”.
Local communities disproportionately bear the negative impacts of human – wildlife conflicts in form of crop damage and human deaths and injuries by elephants, rhinos, buffalos and cheetahs, he said.
“Strangely, rhinos and peacocks are the most problem animals something that is unheard of in East Africa. Part of the 50 percent revenue shared from the park is used to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. Strong walls and wire fences have been erected in conflict hot spot areas,” said Dr Sitati.
He said regular meetings are held between park management and the local communities and are involved in decision-making processes.
After the study tour, Dr Sitati said WWF Tanzania and the Tanzania government officials came up with a five point high level action plan to actualize zero poaching. They are:
(a) To sensitize the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry and the parliamentary committee in charge of natural resources on zero poaching for political will especially towards increased budgetary allocation to conservation.
(b) To cascade zero poaching strategy to Members of Parliament for their support.
(c) The Selous – Mikumi ecosystem to be a model for zero poaching and scale up systematically to the other eight ecosystems.
(d) To undertake an assessment of the status of implementation of the national anti-poaching strategy.
(e) To finalize the guidelines for the Standard Operating Procedures (OPS) for anti-poaching operations.
(f) To hold a workshop to officially launch the National Wildlife and Forest Security Committee (NWFSC) chaired by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and to adopt the guidelines for the Standard Operation Procedures.
(g) Tanzania delegates to present the trip report to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism and the Permanent Secretary and share any other challenges confronting WWF work in Tanzania that requires their intervention.
Dr Sitati said a collaborative effort by various key wildlife agencies is key to ensuring wildlife security using diverse tools and equipment.
“However, passion, love and commitment to conservation work with high level of discipline is critical. More importantly, motivation of wildlife protection team cannot be ignored,” said Dr Sitati.
According to Dr Sitati, Robert Mande, Assistant Director in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in charge of the national anti-poaching unit and also the head of the National Multi-agency Anti-poaching Task Force, and Dr James Wakibara, TAWA Director General, strongly supported the zero poaching.
“‘We must work towards a target to be able to win this war. This war is not for weak hearted people,” Mande was quoted as saying.
Tanzania is currently reviewing the wildlife law and will soon become a para-military force and the three wildlife agencies will be managed under one authority with harmonized terms and conditions for rangers.
However, due to the high level of involvement of some of the army officers in poaching previously and the challenges encountered in dealing with the army, the military have been incorporated in the National Anti-poaching Task Force.
Between 2007 and 2014, 144,000, 30 percent of the African Savannah elephants were poached for their ivory and illegal wildlife trade. East Africa which supports the second largest African elephant population experienced a decline in elephant and rhino population due to poaching.
Tanzania, over the last five years, lost over 63 percent of its elephant population from over 90,000 to less than 40,000. In order to address poaching, WWF developed a zero poaching strategy as a target to guide the elephant range states to work towards achieving zero poaching.
Nonetheless, this was not well received by most wildlife agencies and other agencies that are involved in addressing wildlife crimes but they are slowly understanding the importance of setting a target and working towards achieving it.