Friday, February 12, 2016

Poaching still a major threat to tigers

Demand for body parts fuelling illegal hunting

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu
Feb 12, 2016- Arrests of poachers and seizures of tiger parts in the past one year have again put a spotlight on poaching in Nepal.

Twelve incidents involving arrests of around two dozen people along with tiger parts at different times from different parts of the country, particularly from the western part where dense forests serve as important tiger habitats, were reported in the past one year, according to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).

The latest arrests were made in Pahalwanpur in Kailali district on Wednesday, where police held eight persons, including six Indian nationals of a nomadic community involved in poaching for generations. In Kailali alone, three arrests related to tiger poaching have been made in the past one year.

“This is a worrisome scenario. It shows resurgence of poaching activities,” said Maheswar Dhakal, spokesperson for the DNPWC on Thursday. “This also raises a serious question over the conservation and enforcement measures being carried out for the big cats.” Endangered wildlife including tigers and rhinos had faced severe threats due to increased poaching in the past, before the government and conservation bodies stepped up efforts to protect them.

Efforts to combat poaching and smuggling in animal body parts have also paid off, with populations of these endangered animals significantly increasing in various protected areas and forests.
The last tiger census conducted in 2013 put Nepal’s tiger population at 198, a jump of 63 percent from 2009.

On Sunday, the Chitwan National Park, home to the country’s largest number of wild tigers and rhinos, celebrated a year of zero rhino poaching in 2015.

“Our efforts in rhino conservation might be promising now, but we can’t say the same for tigers that are under severe threat than ever,” said Diwakar Chapagain, deputy director at Wildlife Trade Monitoring at WWF Nepal.

The Indian authorities have strengthened their enforcement and monitoring that might have led the poachers to prowl in Nepal’s forests where the monitoring and enforcement from the authorities was weak or neglected, according to wildlife experts.

Unlike in the past where the protected parks and wildlife reserves were the target of the poachers, the recent seizures indicate that public and community forests that are used for tiger movement or habitats are being targeted,” Chapagain said. “The increasing trend also highlights that the international market demand for tiger and its body parts is going high and the poachers are able to cash in on weak monitoring and regulations,” he said

Wildlife experts say big cats would be hunted as long as there is demand for tiger parts in the international market. Conservationists must try to reduce the demand for tiger parts as part of a campaign to save the big cats, they had warned at an anti-poaching conference in Kathmandu last year. The government is having a DNA test to identify if the tiger parts confiscated in the past one year belong to tigers from Nepal, and the preliminary report found that four tigers killed by the poachers belonged to Bardiya National Park. Wildlife conservationists blame poor efforts in protecting the sensitive areas prone to poaching of wildlife.

“It is high time the government made every stakeholder accountable. The conservation efforts for tigers need a review and urgency to come up with measures to protect tigers,” said Dhakal.

Published: 12-02-2016 

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