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.

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.

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.

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
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.

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

Update: The Search for Pygmy Hogs

Nepal, 2019

Dr. Teri Allendorf is currently in Nepal, searching for signs of the critically endangered pygmy hog and working with local mammalogists.

Local people have been finding small nests made by some mammal species, using fronds (which you can see in the photo above). Forest guards showed Dr. Allendorf the types of places they find these nests.

the critically endangered pgymy hog (Porcula salvania) – photo by John Singh

If signs of pygmy hogs living in this area are found, it will be an important discovery. Currently, pygmy hogs are thought only to remain in one limited area in India, with none remaining in Nepal. However, because the hogs are still found in adjacent landscapes in India and the correct habitat types exist in the study areas in Nepal, the nests are worth looking at closely.

Looking for nests
Pangolin burrow

So far, we haven’t found any definitive signs of pygmy hogs. However, while looking for pygmy hogs, we did see a nice pangolin burrow, which is a species of conservation concern. There are many awareness programs about pangolin conservation in Nepal, so hopefully they will be a conservation success story.

One of the perils of traveling in the field

The work in Nepal hasn’t always been easy… vehicles and sandy dry river beds don’t always mix well. Thanks to our partners Birendra and Dinesh for the help getting us out!

Hopefully more possible pygmy hog nests will be found so we can help identify whether they were made by pygmy hogs, or some other mammal. If they are made by pygmy hogs, it would be exciting indeed! But as of now, the team has seen no definitive signs in this part of Nepal yet.

Partners

Dr. Allendorf is meeting with many interesting and impactful people during the search for pygmy hogs, as she works closely with communities in Nepal.

Dr. Neupane and Dr. Allendorf

We’re so happy to partner with Dr. Dinesh Neupane, an independent researcher. His expertise in Nepal’s wildlife has been such a great contribution. See a short interview with Dinesh on Facebook.

Dr. Arjun Thapa and Birendra Mahato

We are also happy to be partnering with Dr. Arjun Thapa from Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) and Birendra Mahato from Green Society Nepal.

Chairwoman Murti Devi Chaudhary

The team also had the pleasure to meet Murti Devi Chaudhary, chair of the Mahila Jhatkhanda Community Forest in Saptari District, where the pygmy hog search is taking place. Women’s community forestry groups have a strong presence in Nepal but often receive less support and recognition.

While in Nepal, Dr. Allendorf is also working to connect communities and explore the possibility of a community-conserved wildlife corridor in the area. This is a continuation of the work Dr. Allendorf and Community Conservation’s late Founder Rob Horwich started years ago.

Stay tuned for more about the corridor in our next update!