National Geographic News
A photo of an Indian Rhinoceros in Nepal.

A greater one-horned rhino drinks from a river bordering Chitwan National Park, about 44 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Kathmandu, Nepal.

PHOTOGRAPH BY GEMUNU AMARASINGHE, AP

Laurel Neme

for National Geographic

Published March 12, 2014

On World Wildlife Day, March 3, Nepal celebrated 365 days with zero poaching. No rhinos, tigers, or elephants were killed.

It's the second year of such success in Nepal. In 2011 the country also had none, and in 2012 it lost just one rhino to poaching.

This achievement is particularly notable in the face of increased poaching elsewhere. Since February 28, according to press reports, Kenya lost three rhinos to poachers in the span of one week in heavily guarded Lake Nakuru National Park, and one more in Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

On February 28 in South Africa, the epicenter of the rhino poaching crisis, tourists in Kruger National Park found a blinded and mutilated rhino wandering alive. That horror prompted a social media storm and generated intense interest from the Belgian ambassador to South Africa and senior members of the European Parliament. (The personal secretary and aide to Belgium's deputy prime minister was one of the tourists.) In South Africa last year, 1004 rhinos were poached; so far this year, 146 have been poached.

Against this backdrop, Nepal's record stands out.

According to John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Nepal's success is the result of "strong and committed leadership, excellent national collaboration among enforcement entities and with parks agencies, very effective engagement with local communities, and targeted intelligence-led enforcement actions leading to arrests of key players at the top of the criminal chain."

More than 700 criminals were arrested for wildlife-related crimes this past year, including many "kingpins."

"Efforts on the ground have been intensified, with rangers and the Nepal[ese] army patrolling protected areas with support from community-based antipoaching units outside the parks," notes Shubash Lohani, deputy director of the Eastern Himalaya Ecoregion Program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

"In addition, active enforcement by the crime investigation bureau of Nepal's police has been crucial to breaking down the presence of illegal wildlife trafficking networks."

A joint operation in October 2013 by the Nepalese army and the special police led to the dismantling of a rhino poaching network and the arrest of Kathmandu-based kingpin Buddhi Bahadur Praja. Praja allegedly ran a cross-border smuggling enterprise from Nepal to Tibet and killed 12 rhinos over six years.

Also in December 2013, at Nepal's request INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for another notorious rhino poacher, Rajkumar Praja, a 30-year-old Nepali wanted for killing 15 rhinos in Chitwan National Park. Praja was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison.

A photo of game rangers carrying a confiscated tiger skin drying on a rack.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MAGGIE STEBER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Game rangers carry a confiscated tiger skin drying on a rack in Royal Bardia National Park in Nepal.

Zero Tolerance for Wildlife Crime

"There is very much a zero-tolerance attitude to wildlife crime, whereby justice is often swift and harsh," notes John Sellar, an antismuggling, fraud, and organized crime consultant and former CITES enforcement chief.

"Nepal's forest law empowers district forest officers and chief wildlife wardens to deal with offenders and impose prison sentences of up to 14 or 15 years," according to Sellar.

"Whilst this scenario might seem at odds with other judicial systems," Sellar says, "probably its greatest advantage is that it means that any poacher who is caught can expect to be dealt with much quicker than in other countries suffering high levels of poaching, where court systems regularly have lengthy backlogs and where, currently, insufficient deterrence is present."

Thanks to Nepal's efforts, its current estimated population of tigers in national parks increased from 121 in 2009 to 198 in 2013, a promising uptick for a species that's in desperate trouble globally.

A 2011 census of Nepal's greater one-horned rhinos showed an estimated population of 534, up 20 percent from 425 in 2008, with more than 500 of them in Chitwan National Park.

The Nepalese army patrols the national parks to ensure their protection. But poaching increased during the Maoist insurgency from 1996 to 2006, when soldiers were redeployed and the number of army monitoring posts in and around the park fell from 30 to 7.

As a result, Chitwan's rhino population reportedly fell from 612 rhinos in 2000 to some 380 in 2006, when a peace accord was signed.

Today, according to BBC reports, at least a thousand Nepalese soldiers patrol Chitwan from more than 40 posts.

A photo of Nepalese rangers tracking a rhino.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GEMUNU AMARASINGHE, AP
A Nepalese wildlife ranger riding an elephant holds an antenna as he tries to trace a rhino with a radio collar in Chitwan National Park.

Cooperative Approach

At the national level, Nepal's Department of Forests, the country's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) antipoaching staff, and the Nepalese army all share information and work together to fight wildlife poaching and trafficking. At the local level, communities provide the DNPWC with information, which allows officials to target poachers and dealers.

"There has been collaboration across the board in Nepal to stop poaching by putting more rangers on the ground in a cohesive, sophisticated way, actively enforcing anti-trafficking laws to break down illegal wildlife trade networks, educating local communities, and building a shared ethic of conservation across Nepali society," says WWF's Lohani.

For years Nepal has ensured local communities benefit financially from the parks and ecotourism. Those benefits come not only from employment, but also from sharing revenue, such as entrance fees and license fees for tour and lodge companies, with local people.

"The government actually gives 50 cents of every tourist dollar to local communities, which makes them hold more value for rhinos alive than dead," Lohani notes.

Further, Nepalese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the National Trust for Nature Conservation, and international NGOs, such as WWF, have a long history of fruitful interaction with local communities. The result is citizens with a strong sense of ownership and commitment to wildlife protection.

Dedicated leadership at high levels has also been important. Nepal's prime minister chairs the national wildlife crime control bureau. The country hosts the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) secretariat, and the director-general of DNPWC serves as SAWEN's chief enforcement coordinator.

In addition, Nepal was a major force in the early days of the Global Tiger Initiative, which assists the 13 tiger range states in carrying out their conservation strategies through planning, coordination, and communication.

A photo of tourists getting on an elephant in Nepal.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GEMUNU AMARASINGHE, AP
Tourists prepare to ride an elephant during a wildlife safari in Chitwan National Park.

Danger Lurks

Nepal's location—between China to its north and India to its south, east, and west—places it at great risk for trafficking. The country's rough terrain makes border control difficult, and Kathmandu Valley is believed to be a major transit point for the illicit wildlife trade.

"Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that Nepal's growing tiger and rhino populations will inevitably continue to be targets," Sellar warns. "Personally, my concern would be that we see the South Africa scenario replicated—i.e., heavily armed and determined foreign gangs entering Nepal's national parks in search of horns, skins, and ivory."

But Nepal is aware of the dangers. Already, it has sought to employ the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit and collaborate with the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to strengthen its approach to wildlife crime.

As Klairoong Poonpon, former chair of INTERPOL's Wildlife Crime Working Group and senior technical officer of Thailand's Department of National Parks, summarizes, "Nepal's remarkable achievement at zero poaching for a second year gives lessons for other countries and hope for the future of our wildlife."

54 comments
Neil van Rooyen
Neil van Rooyen

Yes, this is a great achievement for Nepal. Well done, BUT, unfortunately for the rest of the world like SA and Africa in a whole, if poachers are paid and people are prepared to pay a lot of money, poaching will never end. We should stop buying the so called 'exotic' items on the black market and that in itself would help for the survival of all species. 

Juliet Owens
Juliet Owens

It's about time someone decided to enforce theses laws. Places all over are started to give an incentive for catching poachers. In Tanzania law enforcement are giving poachers bikes and radios to go around and find poachers. And they get to keep the bike.

Pattie Ealding
Pattie Ealding

Thanks for your wonderful page. So good to know. Well done to Nepal!

Jayanta Das
Jayanta Das

Thank you people of Nepal and Nepalese forest department.Great work done. I think other countries must follow Nepal

Tom Detchemendy
Tom Detchemendy

Why not use drones, even armed drones?  Perhaps drones would be a force multiplier and enable the military and police to capture, stop, even kill  more poachers.

Karl Mauer
Karl Mauer

It's wonderful to hear the good news and success in Nepal. Congratulations to the 

government and the front line workers.

However, no one has mentioned the root of the problem ;  the demand by certain sectors of the Chinese people who have deep - rooted cultural needs for traditional

medicinal practices. To have any chance of winning the extinction battle, we must 

educate the Chinese people that horns and other body parts have NO useful 

purpose for healing the ailing body and mind.  KM.

Margaret Matthews
Margaret Matthews

This is great news, well done Nepal!  I didn't realise Nepal is such a great place to visit to see wildlife, its definitely on the list now!

Margaret Matthews
Margaret Matthews

This is great news, well done Nepal!  I hadn't thought of Nepal as a place to visit to view wildlife but it is now definitely on the list!

samridhi shrestha
samridhi shrestha

 Glad we could celebrate another successful zero poaching year. Kudos to the government, non-governmental and international non-governmental agencies.


Just a small correction that its called Bardia National Park and not Royal Bardia National Park.

Caroline Awesome
Caroline Awesome

Nepali people worked hard to achieve an almost impossible task and they did it!

Michael Vickers
Michael Vickers

Well done Nepal-perhaps other 'Tiger Range' countries can learn from the protective measures that you are taking to save your endangered wildlife. Please keep up the good work.

www.tigersintheforest.co.uk

H schwandt
H schwandt

Keep vigilant never give up, It is for our future generations. 

john wilson
john wilson

Well done to the people of Nepal who have campaigned for protection of these wonderful animals, may your efforts inspire people in other countries to continue in their endeavors to stop this cruelty to our wildlife around the world.

Sushil Khadka
Sushil Khadka

This news made my day, thank you to everyone who is supporting to protect wildlife and nature. I worked IN THE  nature lodge at BARDIA  NATIONAL PARK IN NEPAL,from 1994 to 2001.Those were the best time of my life and the best place on the earth.it is just because living so close by wildlife and its habitats. I really miss this place so much. when I used to read news about poaching it made me so upset. keep up the good work, SAVE THE WILDLIFE.

Evert De Jongh Jnr
Evert De Jongh Jnr

I wish our government (South Africa) would do something meaningful about our poaching crisis, makes my blood boil every time I read about another rhino being mutilated. At least Nepal is doing good, so well done Nepal!

Hem Poudyal
Hem Poudyal

Its a very good news. Nepal is an example for the world. We should protect wild life..

Brittain Elswick
Brittain Elswick

It looks like Nepal is taking steps in the right direction!  Now we just need to implement and revise their approach to fit with other countries to help preserver our natural habitat.  It's always nice to hear some positive things going on in the world, it gives us all a little hope!

Linda Ivatts
Linda Ivatts

Surely any Rhino saved is good news even if the figures cannot be 100% reliable.  I visited Chitwan National Park, with  my son, a couple of years ago and we saw more Rhinos than we expected, particularly females with their babies.  A wonderful area of Nepal to visit and all the locals made you feel welcome. Perhaps this shows that the money they get for each visitor makes their lives a little better because there was no doubt there were plenty of poor people living in the area. 

Dee Schanne
Dee Schanne

Really, 146 have only been poached? UHHHH don't we think since it's the only third month of the year that - that number is just a little high. I mean divide that number by three, you get 48.6 round it up to 49,  mulitply that number by twelve and you get 588. I think the governments, actually the world. Can do a lot better than that? These animals we only have a shot at once, we kill them all - or let them die off - that's it! They don't come back. Get it together world! Save something and be a loving person instead of making your dollar that doesn't go very long at all. I'd rather stare at the wildlife and nature around me then be the riches person in the world. Because when it comes down to it, I'm not going to die with money in my pockets - I'm going to die with all the memories and thoughts I had.

Santos kha
Santos kha

 I am  a Nepalese. And I know how our government functions and similar with officials, NGOs and INGOs. I have always doubt with this data and results of government coming out into the world. We have many examples of theses kinds of fake results and reports from the government. But it would be wonderful if it is not a fake result from nepalese government and other agencies.....hoping for real zero poaching years ahead ...

Santos kha
Santos kha

I am  a Nepalese. And I know how our government functions and similar with officials, NGOs and INGOs. I have always doubt with this data and results of government coming out into the world. IWe have many examples of theses kinds of fake results and reports from the government. But it would be wonderful if it is not a fake result from nepalese government and other agencies.....hoping for real zero poaching years ahead ...

Emerson Lee
Emerson Lee

Are there any chance for individuals to visit the forest?

Kip Keino
Kip Keino

Another step toward sanity: Somehow convince Chinese end-users that exotic animal parts should be used by the host animals, not by people.

Kip Keino
Kip Keino

Way to go Nepal!  I've been there before, and now will certainly visit again. South Africa, what's up? Can't you'all get tough with poachers?

shampa rice
shampa rice

YEAHHHh!!! Love my Nepali families ..........our people <3

DINESH SIGDEL
DINESH SIGDEL

Feels so proud............!

i love my country nepal...............!

Lindi Hall
Lindi Hall

Incredible achievement! Hope it continues

Koshika Surasena
Koshika Surasena

awesome news, so it is happening and above all else it is possible. Nepal keep it up.

Ronnie Govender
Ronnie Govender

Well done Nepal!! Now go tell the rest of the world, especially South Africa, how it's done!

Patrick Kirimi
Patrick Kirimi

The ten year Maoist insurrection seems to have been the only major drawback on an otherwise clean record of conservancy of endangered species in Nepal. National peace is critical. 

Roger Potts
Roger Potts

It seems in this article the term poaching is used to mean killing, when in actually it means illegal hunting.  If hunters on these lands were caught, then poaching was taking place, therefore technically Nepal did not go a full year without poaching unless potential poachers were stopped before entering the park or hunting protected game.

Sushil Adhikari
Sushil Adhikari

@Emerson Lee  You certainly can!! and that too on a guided tour on back of an elephant.... But it depends on your luck whether you can see a rhino  or even royal bengal tiger while on tour.. 

The point being, you certainly can, at Royal Chitwan National Park. Just google it and you will find more info on it.


Jeanette Needham
Jeanette Needham

@Kip Keino  the problem with South Africa is that they have government officials corrupted looking the other way.  You can't have zero tolerance towards crime when someone is getting paid if crime persists. Murderers are freed within a few years (if not a couple of months), the punishment for selling counterfeit items are higher than the punishment for murdering a human being, why do you think they'll feel any different about saving wildlife?   

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