Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Nepal police have arrested a 36 years old fugitive named Suraj Chaudhary from Chitwan. Chaudary was charged for brutally murdering a one-horned rhino in Chitwan National Park (CNP) and selling its horn nearly 15 years ago. The official case was filed against Suraj on September 28, 2005. However, he had fled to different places for 15 years, only to be arrested in 2020 and sent to prison.
In July 2020, police caught another wildlife smuggler after 15 years of investigation. In 2005, Nepal police had arrested four people trying to smuggle tiger pelts, leopard skin and tiger bones from Langtang National Park. All of the convicted criminals mentioned the name “Kunjok lama” as their mastermind and gang leader. In fact, Lama’s name had appeared in various smuggling cases since 1999. The search finally came to a successful end after Kunjok was arrested from Bouddha in 2020.
When it comes to wildlife crime, Nepal has one of the strictest laws among the South Asian countries. According to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act,1973, anyone who is involved in the killing, trading and buying of endangered species and their body parts are liable up to one hundred thousand rupees money and 15 years in prison.
Nepal has also expanded its actions to prevent wildlife crimes. The government has established a web of Community Based Anti-Poaching Units (CBAPUs) in the country to efficiently track poachers. Nepal was also one of the few early countries to install Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Spatial Monitoring and Report Tools (SMART) in major conservation regions to monitor systematic and scientific conservation.
The constant efforts have indeed shown positive results. In the fiscal year 2013/2014, Nepal had recorded 109 cases of wildlife-related crimes; the number decreased to 69 in 2018/2019. Furthermore, doubling the tiger population and zero rhino poaching record for 5 years between 2011-2018 are Nepal’s other commendable milestones.
However, criminals are finding new ways to poach and trade various animals. Even the strictest laws and actions haven’t put poachers at bay. As a transit hub, the wildlife is smuggled to different nations mainly in China and India through Nepal.
There are myriad reasons why poachers choose to do this risky job. According to a study conducted by Paudel and his team (2019), people were involved in these illegal activities not only as a means of survival but also in the greed of earning extra money. They discovered that even well-informed people and university degree holders were taking part in this heinous crime.
With the annual business of 800 billion – 2 trillion Nepali rupees illicit wildlife trade, people are bound to be attracted to the crime. For instance, clients are willing to spend up to 11 million Nepali rupees for 1kg of rhino horns. With profit so high, criminals will always find a way to supply.
The trading of wildlife is not limited to buyers and sellers. This includes a network of mafias, corrupt politicians, reputed figures, elites, greedy locals, and many more. So, without reaching to the grassroots level, wildlife poaching cannot be completely eradicated. It is not just a fight against a person, it’s a fight against the system.
Strict laws and regulations against wildlife trade and poaching are as crucial as other crimes. It requires both patience and unity to break the chain of wildlife business and punish people like Suraj and Kunjok. We can also learn from our past mistake and move forward with even a stronger weapon each time.
Wildlife is the essence of our nature; every species plays an important role in the maintenance of the ecosystem. Without them, our planet will turn into a lifeless desert. However, poaching of these poor creatures is putting them under the constant pressure of extinction. So, let’s unite together against the wildlife crimes and put a full stop to it.