Update: Training Local People to Monitor Wildlife

Nepal, 2019

For the past several months, we have been in Nepal, working to catalyze a new community-conserved wildlife corridor for tigers, elephants, and other species.

Historically, tigers and elephants were distributed throughout the lowlands of Nepal. Until the 19th century, a dense lavish green forest called “Charkose Jhadi” connected the southern forests of Nepal to the forests in India. Now there is poor connectivity between the forests and protected areas of India and Nepal, which presents a major threat to wildlife conservation.

Group of trainees in Nepal at wildlife training session walk through the forest

Our primary goal is to create a viable corridor from Chitwan National Park in central Nepal to the eastern border of Nepal, so that wildlife can travel freely.

Making the corridor a reality

Working across this large landscape is a challenge, but the steps themselves are simple:

  1. raising awareness of the corridor concept and wildlife conservation in southeastern Nepal, and asking community forest groups if they would like to participate
  2. building the capacity of these groups to monitor wildlife in their forests by conducting trainings
  3. creating a network of community forest groups who are coordinating wildlife management activities across the landscape

Meeting with Community Forest Groups

In this part of Nepal, local groups called “Community Forestry User Groups” work to manage and protect the forests they depend on for many resources, such as fuel wood and fodder.

At the end of May, our partners in Nepal met with ten of these groups who had expressed interest during our first trip to visit them. Happily, all ten groups have said that they want to be a part of the corridor and learn these wildlife monitoring skills.

Group of trainees in Nepal at wildlife training session in a forest clearing standing in a circle around leader as he shows them how to work the GPS and camera traps.
Attendees at the first two trainings learned to identify signs of wildlife, set up camera traps, and use GPS.

The data the community forestry groups can collect would be extremely useful. Over time it will allow them to understand if wildlife in their forests is increasing or decreasing – information they need in order to make good wildlife management decisions.

Trainings are Underway

After meeting with the groups, we co-designed trainings for the people from the community forest groups to attend. Our partners in Nepal, Dr Dinesh Neupane, Dr. Arjun Thapa from SMCRF, and Birendra Mahato of Green Society Nepal, conducted two-day trainings with the community forest groups to introduce them to some basic wildlife monitoring techniques, including the use of camera traps.

Group of trainees in Nepal at wildlife training session sit in open-air training pavilion and listen to speaker while taking notes
See more photos of the training on Facebook

The trainings have been a success. Participants included community forest guards, women, and young adults from the community forest user groups.

Attendees learned:

  • Wildlife survey and monitoring
  • Wildlife sign tracking (scat, tracks, etc.)
  • Camera trap operation and setting
  • GPS handling and use
  • Safety measures
Group of trainees in Nepal at wildlife training session in forest crouching down as they attach a camera trap to a tree
The trainees set up cameras in the field. A camera at the first training captured a photo of a jackal, and one from the second training captured a photo of a large Indian civet!

So far, participants are excited by the training and want to buy their own sets of camera traps for their forests.

Want to make more projects like this happen?

Meanwhile, Executive Director Dr. April Sansom is working in the Andes mountains. We’ll be sharing an update from her trip soon.

The 9 Stages of a Community Conservation Project

Our community-based model is comprised of nine social stages. The stages progress as follows:

1. Initial discussions with community leaders and elders about the significance of their natural resources and realistic exploration of benefits that could be gained from conservation when voluntary and participatory (how rare are the species found here? what resources are currently being used by the community? is ecotourism possible? are organic agriculture methods an option in this area?)

2. Informal relationship-building in the community

3. Planning and executing participatory education (such as trainings and workshops)

4. The emergence of local conservation leaders (who often appear though the process of doing the trainings and workshops)

5. These local conservation leaders invoke support from fellow villagers (often, the majority of the village will support the effort)

6. Co-creation of a formal infrastructure and plans (examples: a community forestry area, or a new wildlife sanctuary where ecotourism replaces lost income from resource extraction)

7. The success of the new activities and lessons learned in the initial village spread through local networks of communication (e.g., hearsay; printed information from enlightened schoolchildren to their kin; inviting neighboring communities to visit the project; seminars and public events; informal and formal visits from target community members to other villages)

8. Interest in launching similar projects spreads “horizontally” from the target village to other communities

9. Interest then spreads “vertically” through relationship-building, education, lobbying, and the desire to reproduce the project’s positive results for both the target species/habitats and the local communities (e.g., through governmental, non-governmental, regional, and international entities)

Preview of 9 Stages of Community Conservation how-to infographic
The 9 Stages of a Successful Community Conservation Project: Infographic

Find more useful tools for conservation practitioners on our resources page.

These 9 stages are paraphrased from “Preserving Biodiversity and Ecosystems: Catalyzing Conservation Contagion” written by our founder Rob Horwich and several of his colleagues:

Robert H. Horwich, Jonathan Lyon, Arnab Bose and Clara B. Jones (March 30th 2012). Preserving Biodiversity and Ecosystems: Catalyzing Conservation Contagion, Deforestation Around the World, Paulo Moutinho, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/35435.