Conservation sector to go hi-tech

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu

Sep 22, 2014-

Conservationists in Nepal should embrace advanced and appropriate technologies to combat the sophisticated and ever-expanding trade of wildlife including endangered tigers and rhinos, experts said on Monday.

Despite the increasing level of coordination among the conservation partners both at the national and regional-level, formulation of stricter policy measures and awareness education, conservation groups are struggling to combat the booming trade of wildlife and its body parts.

“In the next decade, we should be able to turn to technology based conservation that would allow us to monitor the status of animals roaming inside forests from our computer desk,” said Santosh Mani Nepal, director of Policy and Support from WWF Nepal.

In recent times, the conservation stakeholders including the government and WWF Nepal have been experimenting with various technologies such as the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, to help combat wildlife trade. These UAVs are being used in Chitwan National Park (CNP) since 2012 by replacing the ground-based patrolling mostly carried by Nepal Army personnel and park officials on foot to keep track of the wildlife.

The radio-collar with Global Positioning System for tigers and rhinos to get real-time data and monitor the status has also been introduced in some protected areas recently. Integration of ID-based wearable monitoring system with Google Glass has also been piloted inside protected areas in Nepal. However, the interventions have not been adequate and are focused in a small-scale.

“With the rising illegal wildlife trade both at regional and international level, it is high time to shift towards technology-based conservation model,” said Chakra Bahadur Shah, Lieutenant Colonel with Nepal Army and former Commander of Shree Nandabox Battalion, stationed at CNP. The team deployed in Chitwan was hailed for their efforts in celebrating zero poaching years twice in 2011 and 2013. He is also one of the Abrahm Conservation Awardee for this year announced on Monday by WWF-Nepal. The award is conferred on an annual basis to individuals and organisations doing exemplary works in conservation field.

According to Shah, the country’s conservation success, particularly with tigers and rhinos, is the result of four components--- increasing role of buffer-zone communities living around the park areas, awareness education, legal framework in coordination with all concerned partners and regular monitoring and patrolling efforts from security and park officials. Nepal has recorded a significant increase of tiger population from 121 in 2009 to 198 in 2013. Rhino population is also considered to be stable with increased efforts from all stakeholders to curb poaching and illegal trade in recent times.

On the occasion of the National Conservation Day to be celebrated at the Capital on Tuesday, WWF-Nepal has announced to felicitate four individuals and two organisations working in the conservation sector. The awards carry a purse of Rs 25,000 and citations for individuals and Rs 50,000 for organisations.

Nepal government decided to celebrate September 23 as a conservation day to commemorate the tragic loss of conservation heroes in a helicopter crash in Taplejung on the same day in 2006.

Published: 23-09-2014 09:22

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