This wasn’t the update I was planning but the last couple of days here in Nepal, as in many places in the world, has meant that changes are happening at a rapid pace. Having being here at various stages during the war, the earthquakes and economic blockades I understand full well the challenges for a country in the least developed category during times like this. With Nepal effectively closing down tourism it means the downturn in the economy will create challenges across the nation including wildlife conservation.
This isn’t the forum to be discussing COVID-19 directly except to say that if the link between our treatment of wildlife and this most recent form of coronavirus is finally taken seriously by governments and the public then finally the voices of those in wildlife conservation warning of events like this will not be in vain. Wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, wildlife farming, management of protected areas (and beyond) as well as every other aspect of how we deal with and treat wild animals needs examination, never has that need been more urgent.
In the here and now the the absolute safeguarding of protected areas (PAs) takes on a whole new level of importance. These areas are the surviving lifeblood of ecosystems that have taken a hammering from humanity all over the planet. Here on our patch in west Nepal, the area our team knows as Bardia/Banke/Kata, leopards and tigers are apex predators requiring total protection so that the food chain they dictate can fulfill the vital ecological roles of sustaining nature which in turn means the very air we breathe and water we drink can be at healthy levels. These big cats, already under pressure just to coexist with humans, also face considerable threat from poaching for their skins, claws, teeth/canines and bones. Unfortunately these threats are only going to be more intense during these uncertain times ahead as the economy struggles and opportunists become more active.
As I write this we are reassessing our short term objectives in light of these events. I’ve been feeling positive about our gains in the last few weeks regarding our coexistence strategies in particular but as I mentioned earlier, experience has taught me that fresh challenges are quick to arise in these situations and we have to react quickly. In collaboration with partners, that is exactly what is happening.
I thank those who have been involved in helping of late, your support is needed now more than ever. I’m in dialogue with good people, we can manage this situation if we work together but it’s not going to be easy. The focus has to be unwavering, I’ll update on progress within the next few weeks as appropriate and you’ll see content added to WildTiger and our social media sites as well.