Govt to revive ‘wildlife gifting’

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu

Sep 13, 2015-

The government is doing its homework to revive the tradition of ‘gifting’ its wildlife to foreign countries as a way of improving diplomatic ties and help in wildlife conservation in the long run.

The amendment bill on National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (NWCA) 1973 that is put for discussion by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) has included a provision that would allow countries to receive wild animals from Nepal if the agreement benefits the conservation and management of wildlife in the country.

“If any country forwards its request for a wildlife from Nepal and abides by the set guidelines, and the donor country considers the request appropriate from the conservation and management perspective, then the state could make the wildlife available as per the request,” the clause 15( E) of the amended bill mentions.

A practice of ‘gifting’ wildlife including endangered rhinoceros was already in place during the royal regime and was stopped after Nepal became a federal democratic republic in 2007.  The then King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, now renamed as National Trust for Nature Conservation, patronised by monarchs had been involved in gifting rhinos to zoos in United States, United Kingdom, Singapore and Germany. Nepal has also received exotic animals including Hippopotamus for its zoo.

“Earlier, the decision to gift animals was done by the royal palace and termed it as a bilateral agreement between two countries to improve diplomatic relations and also source of huge funding,” said Siddhartha Bajracharya, programme director at NTNC . There was no legal basis to allow the export of animals and concerns were raised by conservationists.

The practice of gifting animals is not new to the world. China’s practice of ‘panda diplomacy’ goes back decades while India has received similar animals for its zoo as gifts until the ban in 2005 restricting the country from gifting animals to any country.

According to Maheshwar Dhakal, official at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), the government plans to work on sending wildlife to other countries for research study and education exhibitions that could benefit both the countries as well as the conservation sector.

“It is just the beginning. There is a lot to work on and ensure that the decision would not harm the ecological balance and help in long-term conservation plans for the overall wildlife sector,” he said. In the past, requests have come from countries namely Sri Lanka and China for one-horned rhinos.  

Conservation authorities opine that animals that are problematic to the community increasing human-wildlife conflict and those with satisfactory population could be considered for the proposal.

Published: 13-09-2015 08:49

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