Youths on the bank of a river in Tikapur to watch dolphins in this recent photo. Photo: Republica
TIKAPUR, Aug 6: John Spates of England had come to Nepal for the first time in 2006. The most exciting thing he did then was watch dolphins in Tikapur. Since then, he has been coming to Nepal every year for the same purpose. This year, too, he came for the same reason and left last Wednesday.
Dolphins in Tikapur have been attracting visitors from other countries as well including France, Italy and India. According to dolphin conservationist Bhojraj Dhungana, there are no exact records of the visitors but "that's been on the rise."
"We do not have accurate data. There is no system of record-keeping," said Dhungana, "But both domestic and international tourists are showing more interest in the dolphins here."
Visitors do not have to pay anything to watch dolphins. However, their growing number has indeed been contributing to the local economy.
"Most of the people are regular visitors. Many come for research. And they do stay in nearby hotels," narrated Dhungana. "In view of the rising number of tourists, locals are considering to start the home-stay service."
Dhungana stated that 13 people from inside and outside the country have carried out researches on those dolphins so far. Universities and colleges also bring a huge number of students for observation of the water species.
"Even school children come. For schools in Tikapur, Dhangadhi, Fulbari and around, this place serves as a great educational tour site," Dhungana noted.
The locals have formed dolphin conservation centers at 14 different places of Dhangadhi and Tikapur. Three Eco Clubs, too, are dedicated to the cause.
"Youth volunteers have played a vital role in Dolphin conservation. I have felt that the locals have been very sensitive about the dolphins here in the last few years," Dhungana remarked.
A local of Tikapur, Dhaniram Regmi, has donated one Kattha of land for a view tower from where dolphins of Pathariya and Kanda Rivers can be watched. The tower is under construction.
Another tower being built nearby is now near completion. Another local of Tikapur, Top Bahadur KC, had given land for it for free. And the investment for the tower has been made by provincial lawmaker Dr Rana Bahadur Rawal's constituency development fund.
Bhojaraj Shrestha commonly known as 'Guleli Baje' had first started Dolphin conservation in the western rivers two decades ago. Mohana, Pathariya and Kanda rivers where dolphins were found then gradually attracted other conservationists as well. Unlike earlier, the locals are discouraged to poison and kill fish in these rivers.