WWF Nepal's 25 years in conservation shines through, with synergy and sustainable partnerships, that have helped us deliver conservation impact. In 2018, we reflect on 12 milestones chiseled with the passion of our partners that have helped bend the curve in Nepal's conservation landscapes - a possible by people, for the planet.
The introduction of the landscape level approach to conservation in Nepal in 2001 was a game changer – it marked a paradigm shift in conservation programming to evolve from a single species and protected area focus to one that brought together connected landscapes, local communities and integrated conservation approaches to benefit people, nature and wildlife. This led to the birth of the far-reaching Terai Arc Landscape followed by the Sacred Himalayan and Chitwan-Annapurna landscapes to create a rich mosaic of 8,013,649 hectares of forests, mountain and freshwater ecosystems to harbor growing populations of tigers, rhinos and snow leopards.
The Gold Standard Biogas VER Project was initiated in 2007 to address environmental, energy and health challenges while creating and supporting a unique carbon financing mechanism in Nepal. Currently in its second phase, the project has helped reduce firewood demand for 8,000 households to sequester 92,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, while contributing to the health of local people, especially women and children, through a smoke-free and cleaner energy alternative. As an added benefit, the first vantage of carbon credits generated €2 million, which is being channeled back to the local communities for building additional biogas units and funding community development programs.
When young people are engaged in conservation, the results from the same can transcend generations yielding sustainable impacts over time. By supporting 400+ community-based anti-poaching units and 100+ citizen scientists, young people have received a platform to engage directly in biodiversity protection, conservation science and mobilizing community support. Conservation education programs have spanned across 500+ eco clubs and 55,000+ young members of The Generation Green campaign, imparting knowledge on conservation issues and guiding engagement in environmental conservation and awareness.
Nepal is one of the few countries to be bringing back assemblages of herbivores in protected areas for effective ecosystem restoration. 58 one-horned rhinos were successfully translocated from Chitwan to Bardia and Shuklaphanta national parks between 2000 and 2017 to help establish a second viable population of rhinos in the western complex of the Terai Arc Landscape. Likewise, twelve swamp deer were translocated from Shuklaphanta to Chitwan and Bardia national parks, and twelve wild water buffaloes to Chitwan. A successful outcome of such translocations is seen in Shuklaphanta where black buck numbers have increased to 60 from the 22 translocated in 2013.
Nepal exemplifies the ethos that conservation impact is possible only when we work together. This has driven a synergetic approach to building a network of support, from the Prime Minister level to that of grassroots level people, from central bodies such as the National Tiger Conservation Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister of Nepal and Wildlife Crime Control Coordination Committee led by the Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation, to an expansive network of community-based organizations. WWF Nepal also works closely with different levels of government including Legislature Parliament, judiciary bodies, and various ministries and departments, to create a conducive policy environment for conservation.
Nepal’s engagement in the REDD+ readiness process finds its roots in the first forest carbon project initiated in the Terai Arc Landscape to establish the current forest carbon stock at a sub-national level. As a stepping stone to access forest carbon financing for forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and forest carbon stock enhancement, Nepal made new headway with the approval of its Emission Reductions Project Idea Note followed by the Emissions Reduction Program Document, yet to be endorsed, with the potential to sequestrate about 14 million tons of CO2 eq. in the Terai Arc Landscape in 2018-2025. Climate adaptation programs are, in the meantime, building the food, water and energy nexus benefiting 20,000+ households.
Conservation technologies have proved a fantastic aid to human effort in protecting nature and wildlife in Nepal’s conservation landscapes. Nepal pioneered the use of Real-time SMART Patrols – an android-based patrolling app that records and updates patrolling and locational data in real-time for swifter antipoaching response. Likewise, unmanned aerial vehicles and CCTV cameras in protected areas are an effective deterrent for poachers allowing greater access in protected areas and for monitoring of wildlife habitat, and a sniffer dog squad in Chitwan National Park operates as nature’s best friend and a poacher’s worst enemy in keeping illegal wildlife trade at bay.
Nepal is uniquely placed between India and China sharing a treasure trove of biodiversity. This has helped promote cooperation between the three governments to work beyond borders for conservation, culminating in a memorandum of understanding signed between Nepal and China in 2010, and a resolution with India the same year to promote transboundary cooperation in the field of biodiversity conservation, management of forest resources and protection of wildlife such as tigers, rhinos and snow leopards. WWF Nepal also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network as a regional response to curb wildlife crime and in knowledge transfers with Bhutan, Namibia and Cambodia on conservation approaches and standards.
Nepal set the benchmark in antipoaching excellence with the achievement of 365 days of zero poaching of rhinos four times between 2011 and 2016. This is on account of the coordinated efforts of the government, enforcement agencies including park authorities, Nepal Army and Nepal Police, conservation partners such as WWF Nepal and local communities. Nepal also led the adoption of a Zero Poaching Toolkit introduced by WWF to guide antipoaching frameworks of 13 tiger range countries. In May 2017, Nepal burnt its stockpile of over 4,000 wildlife parts – the first time in 20 years – as a show of resolve and commitment to end wildlife crimes.
An estimated 301-400 snow leopards roam Nepal’s Himalayan region, supported by conservation science and programs aimed at building communal harmony to protect this elusive mountain species. The first camera trapping of snow leopards in 2011 and the successful collaring of four snow leopards with satellite-GPS technology in Kangchenjunga Conservation Area between 2013 and 2017 is aiding greater understanding of the species and making the case for transboundary conservation effort. An innovative livestock insurance scheme has helped achieve zero retaliatory killing of snow leopards. Nepal is also the first country to launch its climate-smart snow leopard landscape management plan in 2017 as a model for other range countries to adopt.
In a country where community lives are intricately linked with nature as a provider of resources for local livelihoods, the important connect with conservation in effect rests with communities themselves. This sparked the injection of micro-credit to support alternate livelihood options for local people to reduce their dependence on forest resources; a scale of over USD 1.3 million in revolving funds to finance household and community enterprises since 2001. The innovative Sustainable Communities Initiative in the buffer zones of Chitwan and Langtang national parks provided new conservation incentives to local communities by blending environment conservation with socio-economic benefits from health, education and ecotourism.
On 22 September 2006, the government of Nepal handed over Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) to the local community, making it the first ever protected area to be managed by the local people in Nepal. Led by the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council, the conservation projects in KCA embedded community participation and stewardship, by building the capacity of local community groups as citizen scientists and snow leopard conservation committees and providing enabling conditions to manage the KCA – a rich tapestry of 203,500 ha of forests, rivers, high altitude lakes and glaciers, and home to the elusive snow leopard.