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Ex-poachers turn conservationists

The Himalayan Ghoral found at Dhaubadhi VDC, in Chitwan, on Monday, December 5, 2016. Photo: THT

Nawalparasi, December 6, 2016: In the hilly VDCs of Nawalparasi district, where locals used to illegally kill the Himalayan ghoral for meat and sport in the past, the same locals are now making concerted efforts to conserve the rare species.

Om Bahadur Rana of Dhauwadi VDC, Pokhari, had illegally shot a ghoral eight years ago. Today, he is as an active member of the youth committee formed to curb the illegal smuggling and poaching of wild animals.

Rana, who is also the assistant head teacher of the local Naba Jagaran Primary School, said that he used to head towards the forest after the onset of the festival season and social carnivals to hunt ghorals. But now, he and scores of other locals work together to protect the species, because of the various incentives offered to them by the concerned authority.

Many locals were enticed into reporting illegal hunting and poaching of the animals after the concerned authority offered attractive cash prizes for informants. Locals also earn revenue from tourists who come to the village to see ghorals.

Bir Singh Gharti of the same VDC was also involved in poaching the rare species in the past, but has now started a homestay for tourists at his home.

A 13-youth-member committee for the conservation of the ghoral has been formed in the village to curb illegal poaching and smuggling of the species.

The locals of the hilly VDCs of Nawalparasi launched a campaign to promote tourism and protect ghorals seven years ago, seeking an alternative source of income through conservation of wild animals and from their community forest. As a result, at least 10 houses at Dhauwadi – 10 now run homestays for tourists.

Dhauwadi, Naram, Ruchang, Deurali, and Hupsekot VDCs of Nawalparasi, and Jhirubas VDC of Palpa were declared a Ghoral Conservation Area spread over 112.63 square kilometres of area in 2008. “The committee was formed to increase income generating sources for locals and uplift their socio-economic status,” said Nura Chandra Pandey, Vice-chairperson of the committee.

Later, they formed the Mahabharata Biodiversity Conservation Society aiming to protect all rare flora and fauna in 2013.

The population of ghoral was recorded at only seven in 2008, which increased to 40 in 2013. “We have been excited and further motivated by the remarkable increase in their population,” said Pandey.

Meanwhile, District Forest Officer Bijay Raj Subedi claimed that poaching and smuggling of the rare species had fallen to zero after the conservation campaign gained momentum.

The World Wildlife Fund, CARE, The Federation of Community Forest Consumers, and The National Nature Conservation Fund have been launching various programmes for the protection of bio-diversity in coordination with the locals.

These organisations have supported locals with financial aid for bio-gas plants, cash crops, hybrid livestock, bee keeping, home stays, and amenities such as drinking water and solar energy.

Of the four species of ghoral found across the globe, only the Himalayan ghoral is available in Nepal.

The rare species is protected in Khaptad National Park, Shey Phoksundo National Park, Langtang National Park, Parsa Wild Life Conservation, and Dhorpatan Hunting areas, and in the Mahabharata Himalayan ranges.

By Tilak Ram Rimal