Amidst largely despairing news on politics and governance, there is something to inspire optimism in the field of wild life conservation. The latest tiger census report, released in September 2018, for example, offers one such optimism. According to the report, the number of tigers in Nepal has almost doubled in the last decade. We now have 235 big tigers, which is nearly two times the number of 2009 when the country had a total of 121 tigers. This has made Nepal the first country to meet the international goal of doubling the tiger population by 2022. This was the result of Nepal relentlessly working to save tigers following its commitment to Global Tiger Recovery Plan (TX2), endorsed by 13 countries including Nepal during the 2010 Saint Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation. Troublingly, however, the same cannot be said about rhinos. Rhino deaths have increased in recent times. Now and again, rhinos are found dead in Nepal and killers often go off the hook.
In January this year, a 15-year-old one-horned rhino was found dead inside Chitwan National Park. This was the 23rd such death in this fiscal year. In 2017/18, 26 rhinos died in the park, followed by 25 deaths in previous year. In the last 20 years, a total of 433 one-horned rhinos have lost their lives inside Chitwan National Park—157 of them were by poachers. According to Chitwan National Park Rhino Mortality Report of 2018, there were 141 documented rhino deaths from 2004-2017, with 111 (79 percent) deaths due to unknown/natural causes and 30 (21 percent) due to poaching. The report concludes that the park has witnessed dramatic rise in rhino deaths in the last three years. As things stand, Nepal has lost rhino population not only due to poaching—some have died due to natural causes. But in either case, it only shows how wildlife preservation authorities have failed to save these endangered species by providing them better environment to live in. Smugglers and poachers have made Nepal a convenient location for illegal wildlife trade. Our inability to save their habitats has resulted in aggravating situation of wildlife loss.
Needless to say, Nepal must explore every possible solution to preserve the endangered animals like rhinos and tigers. According to the latest report from Indian media, India and Nepal are going to sign an agreement to cooperate on biodiversity conservation, including conservation of species like Indian rhino, Bengal tiger and Asian elephants. This will be a welcome initiative for both the countries. Valmiki Tiger Reserve in India, for instance, is close to Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, a rhino stronghold and Parsa National Park. Likewise, India’s Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh shares a border with Shuklaphanta National Park in Nepal. The proposed agreement also puts emphasis on cooperation for conservation and protection of tigers of the two countries. Rhinos and tigers are endangered species, threatened by poaching and human-wildlife conflict. Any initiative to save them from harm’s way is most welcome.