On World Wildlife Day, March 3, Nepal achieved a rare feat: an entire year without wildlife poaching. In the three years since 2011, the country lost a single rhino to poaching. Populations of rhinos, tigers and elephants are on the rise.
Compare this to other nations, where these animals are disappearing fast. South Africa has seen 146 rhinos already killed in 2014, over 1000 in 2013.
So, what is Nepal doing right?
Many things, apparently, because no single solution works. First, the country has a zero-tolerance approach to poachers. Get caught, go straight to jail for up to fifteen years. And there’s no long court process involved – Nepal’s forest law allows chief game wardens to pass judgement and punishment, lessening the likelihood of escape or a long, fruitless court trial.
The country also places a high priority on seeking out and capturing ring leaders. Various agencies work collaboratively to share information and find dealers and enforce anti-trafficking laws.
Crucially, in the promotion of ecotourism, the Nepalese government not only supports programs that provide employment, it also redistributes the revenues from parks and tourism – licence fees, park entrance fees, and so on – among local communities. Half of all tourism revenues are handed back to the locals, making the animals more valuable alive rather than dead.
This achievement is all the more impressive due to Nepal’s location between China and India, two of the main regions for trafficked animal parts.
Artist Sipho Mabona created an entire life-sized origami elephant out of a single piece of paper, a long project that required over a year of planning, a month of construction and many hands.
Mabona‘s elephant is a good symbol of Nepal’s achievement. This creation is no piece of easy patchwork.
Anti-poaching success is something that results from a whole cloth approach and many hands. It’s impressive, it’s inspiring, and at the same time, it’s fragile.
Time lapse film of the elephant’s construction.