By Dr Teri Allendorf, Executive Director, May 2023
I just returned from a successful and exciting trip to Nepal to conduct workshops with 28 community forest groups in two districts of southeastern Nepal, Jhapa and Morang. Our primary goals were to show them the results of camera trapping we did in their forests, talk about pangolin conservation, and figure out next steps for the creation of a community wildlife corridor.
The camera trapping project was funded by the Mohamed bin Zayed Conservation Fund, which requires a focal species for funding. Our focal species is the pangolin, the most trafficked animal in the world. There are four species of pangolin in Africa and four in Asia. Two species are found in Nepal, the Chinese and Indian pangolin. In our corridor area, the predominant species is the Chinese pangolin.
We had one participant question our focus on the pangolin, since so many different animal species live in the forest. We agreed with him, clarifying that our dream of a community wildlife corridor is not about a particular species, while highlighting the special and precarious situation of the pangolin. We emphasized that our long term dream is a community wildlife corridor for all animal and plant species.
Over the last year on this project, we have heard a lot about deer poaching for local consumption. It seems that this type of poaching is an under-recognized problem and a threat to the community forest groups’ ability to protect and manage the wildlife in their forests. Local poachers hunt deer to sell, we think primarily for local consumption, but it’s not clear how extensive the poaching is or what species it includes. Poachers are rarely held or punished by local law enforcement, which means there isn’t much forest groups can do when they find people with guns in their forest.
We are proposing to the communities that we help them create community-based anti-poaching units (CBAPUs), which communities have had in the buffer zones of national parks and protected areas in Nepal since the 1990s. The CBAPU’s can provide a model for community-based protection and encourage support from local law enforcement.
At the end of my trip, we held an inspiring Community Conservation Workshop with nine other organizations that work with communities to conserve biodiversity. Although Nepal is a model for community conservation, there is no group that explicitly focuses on community conservation. By bringing together organizations across Nepal, we hope to share experiences and help organizations work more effectively with communities. As one participant said, “It is time to go from community-managed conservation to community-led conservation.”