Curbing the wildlife trade Nepal
Asia/Pacific > Southern Asia > Nepal
Each year, hundreds of millions of plants and animals are caught or harvested from the wild and then sold as food, pets, ornamental plants, tourist curios and medicine. While a great deal of this trade is legal and is not harming wild populations, a worryingly large proportion is illegal and threatens the survival of many endangered species.
In Nepal, the poaching and illicit trade of wildlife, particularly Asian big cats, is a major concern. In response, WWF is working with the Nepalese government to close down trade routes and transit markets for illegal wildlife through improved monitoring and enforcement.
International trade of wildlife species and products is estimated to be worth USD 20 billion (Chungyalpa 1998). Despite strict legislation ensuring a poacher/trader 15 years' imprisonment or a fine of up to USD 1,300 (or both), trade has continued to flourish (Chungyalpa 1998).
In 1991, WWF Nepal and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) sought to identify deterrents to tiger and rhino poaching in the national parks. As a result, antipoaching units (APUs) were formed in Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP) and Royal Bardia National Park (RBNP). Although APUs were set up to reduce the level of poaching of tigers and rhinos, they quickly also became involved in monitoring the trafficking network of wildlife species and their products.
Concerns have focused on the increasing trend of Nepal being used as a transit route by well-coordinated and well-financed organized groups with international links. The Environment Investigation Agency’s (EIA) recent report The Tiger Skin Trail described Kathmandu as a ‘staging point’ for illegal skins brought in from India to be sent to Tibet.
Although Nepal is no longer the hub for skin trade that it was in the early 1990s (EIA 2004), it is used as a transit point for illicit trafficking of wildlife parts and derivatives.
Parties at the 13th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) considered the continuing trade in Asian big cat parts in range states, particularly trade in tiger parts, which are reported to have the highest value and demand in the skin and traditional Chinese medicine markets.
Responding to the overwhelming concern of the global community and recent tiger conservation issues in India, WWF and TRAFFIC met to strategize on the emerging threats to endangered wildlife due to illegal trade and consumption. A 5-year action plan was drawn up to address issues at various sites in the trade chain. Nepal has been identified as a key player in the transit process. This proposal thus draws upon the action plan as well as on the national level priorities that have been identified as part of WWF Nepal’s experience of wildlife trade issues in Nepal.
Nepal is a signatory and party to CITES and had in place all legal and institutional instruments to address wildlife trade issues. However, the illegal wildlife trade has recently become more organized, demand has increased and the traders have a more sophisticated system for transporting consignments. Therefore, it is now also necessary for Nepal to address external drivers, like international demand and enforcement at cross-border levels, as well as regional level advocacy, policy analysis and feedback, working with non-conventional stakeholders such as transport companies.
Nepal as transit point for wildlife trade:
- For the last 10 years, Nepal is known to have been an important centre for illegal wildlife trade (Van Gruisen and Sinclair 1992).
- Kathmandu is believed to be one of the largest underground trade centres in the region. Commodities include shahtoosh, fur, musk pods, bear bile, tiger skin and bones, ivory, rhino horn, leopard parts and live animals (turtles, birds).
- There is a well-connected nexus for smuggling these commodities linking Nepal with China and India. Further, Nepal’s porous border and its extensive international airline connections have made it an easy flow area (Wright and Kumar 1997).
- Recent seizures of wildlife parts also indicate that Nepalese territory is increasingly being used to transport these goods to the end users in Tibet/China, East Asia and even to the west.
High demand and value for tiger and rhino parts:
- Rhino horns fetch a price of up to NPR800,000/kg (approximately USD10,000) within the country (Nepali Times July 2002) while tiger bones can fetch up to NPR5,400/kg (approximately USD70) (Dhakal 1999). The price of these products is much higher in the international market. Due to increased demand, tiger bone prices can be double or even 5 times higher in South Korea, Taiwan and other countries, depending on the size of the bones. In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup (to boost virility) goes for USD320 and a pair of eyes (to fight epilepsy and malaria) for USD170. Powdered tiger humerus bone (for treating ulcers, rheumatism and typhoid) brings up to USD3,200/kg in Seoul.
- Consuming tiger parts for medicinal purposes is not limited to Asia. A recent WWF investigation in England of Chinese chemists, craft shops and supermarkets in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool showed that half the shops sold products claiming to contain tiger bone. The rising demand for tiger parts and rapid increase in the price of tiger bone continues to be an irresistible incentive to poachers and those involved in the trade of these products.
Lack of cross-border cooperation:
- Although the issue of wildlife trade goes beyond the boundary of a single country, interventions in Nepal have to date only focused on site level enforcement. Therefore, concerted efforts at an international and regional level are required to make enforcement efforts effective, garner political commitments, improve intelligence sharing and perhaps even gauge the possibility of extradition mechanisms for those indicted in illegal wildlife trade.
Limited government resources for addressing key wildlife trade issues:
- In Nepal, although wildlife trade monitoring is carried out by DNPWC, due to financial constraints activities like international coordination, advocacy, training, intelligence gathering and informants’ network have not been included in the regular budget of the Nepalese government. It is therefore imperative to provide support to these key activities which can address the demand side of the illegal wildlife trade.
Ensure the close-down/reduction of trade routes and transit markets for illegal wildlife, especially Asian big cats’ skins and derivatives from Nepalese territory.
Specific objectives, by 2010:
1. Enforcement efforts are visibly strengthened along 3 major illegal trade routes and in 1 transit market for Asian big cats’ skins and products in Nepal.
2. Cross border collaboration is visibly strengthened between countries along 3 major illegal trade routes and in 2 transit markets for Asian big cats’skins.
3. Identification and regular monitoring of key trade routes, smuggling methods and markets, informs government decision-making and enforcement activities to close down at least 1 key trade chain and transit market for illegal Asian big cats’ skins.
- Conduct policy analysis of relevant policies and legal instruments (National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973, Customs Act, Forest Act and others of relevance) to assess if there are adequate provisions to address trade in Asian big cats’ and other wildlife and provide policy feedback, using the results as an advocacy tool to influence policy review.
- Conduct advocacy and lobbying activities during strategic events (wildlife week, environment day, biodiversity day, regular campaigns) at a high political level as a means of awareness to garner political will to address Asian big cats and wildlife trade.
- Establish community based wildlife trade monitoring and curbing initiatives along one key trade route in Nepal.
- Conduct feasibility survey for the need to have cooperative agreements between enforcement agencies and transport companies (air, rail, bus, freight, express courier) and organize awareness interactions with these transport media on the illegal trade issue.
- Conduct one multi-country, high-level political meeting on wildlife trade enforcement issues between India, China and Nepal.
- Organize interactions with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) secretariat to explore the possibility of using SAARC as a forum for motivating political will.
- Conduct awareness raising and capacity building programmes for government agencies, the judiciary, communities, traders and consumers through education initiatives, media, workshops, campaigns and training.
- Place and support informants in 2 key transit centres/sites in Nepal for accurate intelligence information collection, analysis, and dissemination to law enforcement agencies on the illegal trade in Asian big cats’ along the trade chain.
- Conduct field level intelligence collection with communities, traders, transport companies and enforcement agencies to gather information on illegal trade routes and markets. This information provided to enforcement agencies would identify key pressure points for application of enforcement effort.
- Establish and support enforcement monitoring units in 2 protected areas which also serve as transit routes for Nepal.
- Controlled poaching of rhino in all the parks (especially Chitwan).
- Seizures of animal parts and forest products in connection with enforcement authorities and park staff.
- Informing enforcement agencies, judiciaries and park staff.
- Transboundary cooperation strengthened.