To the border of Nepal – Dudhwa Tiger Reserve
The site that I was going to visit was called Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, and this location was chosen as we wanted to generate a view representative of individuals living and working in an international border area where illegal wildlife trade between countries may be an issue. Dudhwa Tiger Reserve was classified as a wildlife sanctuary in 1958, a national park in 1977, and then as a tiger reserve in 1988. The site is located on the India-Nepal border in the foothills of the Himalaya. The protected region covers a total area of approximately 1,250 km2 including; 614 km2 which is the core area of Dudhwa National Park, 400 km2 at Katarnighat Sanctuary and 227 km2 at Kishanpur Sanctuary which are classified together as Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. A rich biodiversity of flora and fauna exist within this range including mega fauna such as tiger, leopard, elephant, and rhino (following a successful re-introduction program), 5 species of deer (the only park in the world the do so), over 350 species of birds, 77 species of grass and endangered Gharial and river dolphins within the Katarnighat site.
Cross-border relations with Nepal are imperative here as the wildlife in this area understand no political boundaries. There exists a habitat continuum for species such as tigers and rhinos at several points and their migration from one country to the next is not uncommon. The connectivity of such critical corridors across the two countries needs regular and sustained attention. Additionally the illegal trade in wildlife across the border between India and Nepal is a constant matter of concern and it was important to gain information about the current enforcement methods in place. As a protected Tiger Reserve, Dudhwa experiences increased pressure in monitoring and enforcement in comparison to other reserves within India due to the increased threat of illegal cross-border operations. The Protected Area managers as well as the law enforcement personnel of both India and Nepal face common problems while combating illegal trade, poaching and managing and protecting the terrestrial and aquatic species residing or moving in the area.
Through implementation of the questionnaire designed for my field trip it was hoped to raise awareness about current issues in illegal wildlife trade, views on the relations between India and Nepal, and recommendations for the way forward. Participants involved in the study included; Field Director DTR, Deputy Director DTR, Warden DTR, Range Officers DTR, Field Staff DTR, Park Guide DTR, District Forest Officers, Senior Journalist, Border Control Staff, Foresters, NGO worker from Nepal, Village motivator, Villagers living in close proximity to reserve, and WWF Field Officers. With some of these individuals I was able to conduct the questionnaires myself whilst on other occasions I had to work via translation, Hindi-English, and was supported by the WWF field officer.
My field trip was an amazing opportunity to get out and really see what life was like for myself instead of just reading about it in journals and books. The park and the surrounding are were incredibly beautiful and I felt very privileged to be able to spend time in this landscape and to see the abundant wildlife (including an elephant ride through the forest and a boat trip to see endangered river dolphins). Everyone that I met was extremely kind, generous and respectful and also showed genuine interest in the work that I was trying to do and so were eager to contribute in whatever way they could. I was able to collect lots of relevant information which I later analysed and used in my report and it makes me feel positive that the views of the local people were voiced and that their ideas will be considered in future projects.