Nepal tiger numbers

We’ve received several inquiries regarding the non-publication by the Government of Nepal of the results of the recent tiger census.  We’ll bring a summary of statements in due course.  There is considerable concern that there has been a significant drop in numbers.  Coupled with recent controversy regarding rhino poaching incidents during a claimed zero-poaching year plus continuing leopard body parts seizures (added to reported drops of leopard numbers in different parts of the country) there’s no doubt Nepal faces serious issues in wildlife conservation in general.

The tiger census situation is currently being referenced by articles in our Twitter feed @WildTigerNews

Update

We’re currently involved in a number of current case follow ups (several wildlife species involved) as well as separate reviews of a considerable number of leopard skin (and other body parts) seizures which have reached or are close to judicial stage.

The sheer volume of leopard body parts seizures are part of a huge problem which is not being adequately addressed.  Seizures only indicate a fraction of overall poaching.  We’re currently putting considerable emphasis on this issue and working with appropriate authorities and agencies.

With regard to the leopard situation we’ll be publishing a full report as soon as possible.

Is elephant poaching in South Asia on the rise?

A recent seizure of elephant tusks in Siliguri, West Bengal in India has once again exposed trans national illegal trade.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrested two person and seized six pieces of ivory weighing over 9kg near a bus stand in Siliguri according to officials.

After acting on specific intelligence, DRI interrogation found that the ivory was smuggled from Nepal with the intention of delivery to a prospective buyer from west Bengal.

At the same time the Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB) are following up an incident where a dead elephant was found with its tusks removed.  The incident occurred in Jhapa district which borders West Bengal.  The CIB have requested DNA analysis so that the link to the Siliguri seizure can be ascertained.

This case is one of several in recent times involving the seizure of elephant tusks in the region.  WildTiger is collaborating with the appropriate parties to further understand what appears to be increase in the poaching of elephants in South Asia.  Tiger and rhino are the two species where investigation priority has been given by authorities in the region meaning other species such as leopard and elephant have not had the same focus despite global pressure on both species.

Elephant poaching is Africa has received widespread publicity and trade in ivory products is being banned in an increasing number of nations.  WildTiger will bring reports on the situation as the dynamics in South Asia are further understood.

Case Follow Ups – Update

The case referenced above in the tweet by Pragati Shahi on 30 June 2018 is being followed up by WildTiger.  According to information received the poaching incident occurred during a claimed ‘Zero Poaching’ (rhino) year by Nepal authorities.  Currently seven of the 16 people accused are in custody while 9 are at large.

WildTiger is also collaborating with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in response to EIA findings of use of leopard bones by registered businesses in China.  There is concern that leopard bones have been illegally sourced from India and Nepal where the Indian leopard (panthera pardus fusca) is suffering from intense poaching.

When appropriate WildTiger will have updates on these cases as well as others being followed up.

Current Cases

WildTiger is currently involved in several follow ups of cases involving leopard body parts and rhino horn seizures. Pragati Shahi will update when appropriate.

Wildlife Crime Nepal – Tiger killed in retaliation ends up on illegal wildlife trade market, CIB (Nepal) make arrest

Report from Pragati Shahi

Early this month, Nepal reported poaching of an endangered wild tiger along a wildlife corridor joining the country’s two major tiger habitats: Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve.

Acting on a tip-off, a team of personnel from the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police arrested one person with a set of tiger hide and nine kilograms of tiger bones from Jarayotar Lamkana, Makwanpur district on May 6.

Twenty-nine-year old Chet Bahadur Waiba, a local, was arrested and charged with illegal possession of wildlife parts.

It is important to note that Makwanpur district has been increasingly becoming a hotspot for seizures of various wildlife parts, including leopard hides, tiger hides and body parts and recently elephant ivory.

The initial investigation has revealed that the tiger was killed about three months before the arrest, in a retaliatory act by locals, after the tiger killed eight livestock.

After the tiger killed livestock, a group of six to eight villagers bought poison from the market and laced the carcasses of the domestic animals.

The arrested man has claimed that he was just used as a carrier to transport the tiger parts, after the locals killed the tiger by using poison. The tiger fed on the poison-laced livestock carcasses and died, he said.

The initial investigation has further indicated that the tiger could be from Nepal and roaming outside the core protected areas when the incident occurred. The investigation is ongoing, the police said. The most disturbing finding from this investigation is two sets of tiger hides and bones were reported to have transported from Makwanpur, along with leopard hides.

Increasing human-wildlife altercations has been seen as a serious challenge and conservationists are finding it hard to tackle this issue that is taking toll on the conservation sector. And Nepal is not an exception.

There are frequent reports of attacks, injuries and deaths of humans by rhinos, tigers and elephants in around major protected areas. There are a host of reasons, including the increasing human activities, like deforestation, habitat degradation and forest encroachment, causing wildlife to come out of their core habitats and enter nearby human settlements.

A latest scientific report published in PeerJ on May 29 stated that Nepal lost 33,700 hectares of tree cover area between 2001 and 2016. In 2000, the total tree cover area in Nepal was 4,746,000 hectares, the report states. Chure and Tarai regions that serve as prime habitats to vital wildlife species, including tiger recorded the highest loss of total tree cover areas.

Nepal is home to 198 adult wild tigers, as per the last census report published in 2014. As a part of the global commitment by tiger-range countries, Nepal has committed to double its tiger populations by 2022.

Conservationist in Nepal takes stand against historical possession of wildlife body parts

Ex PM Kritinidhi Bista giving an interview to a national television network at his home, Kathmandu, Nepal, September 2016. Source: Tweet of the interviewer Suman Kharel.

Conservationist Kumar Paudel has filed a petition to Nepal’s Supreme Court based on the premise against a number of government departments that demands them to act on a number of prominent yet overlooked cases of illegal wildlife body parts use.  Mr Paudel took action initially after viewing the television interview referred to in the image above.

Mr Paudel quotes in the Press Release: “As part of my current research, I have interviewed more than 150 people serving criminal sentences for illegal trading of wildlife in Nepal. Coincidentally, I was watching a national broadcast of an interview with our former Prime Minister, Kritinidhi Bista. I was shocked to see that he was prominently displaying a tiger pelt as a decorative item in his home.”

Read the full Press Release:  Illegal wildlife trade & Nepal’s Ex-Prime Minister Petition to the Supreme Court of Nepal

WildTiger notes that when American Ian Baker was charged with possession of wildlife body parts (including big cat skins) in Nepal in 2008 he claimed that there were many families among Kathmandu’s elite in possession of tiger skins and other wildlife parts.  Baker did not appear in Nepal to face charges and an INTERPOL Red Corner Notice against him was later suspended after he was located and arrested in Athens in 2017.  “INTERPOL has expressed dissatisfaction over his prosecution by Kathmandu District Forest Office — a quasi- judicial body,” a senior police officer requesting anonymity said – Read story HERE.

WildTiger will update on the Kumar Paudel petition to the Nepal Supreme Court and we are preparing a report on these issues including the Baker case.

 

#SouthAsia #leopard plight – Arrested with leopard skins, out on bail, reoffends

Nakal Bahadur Bal of Makwanpur district, Nepal, was arrested with two leopard skins on 24 December 2016.  He was released on bail in a case under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere.  On 8 May 2018 Bal was arrested in Lalitpur, Kathmandu Valley, with a leopard skin and a large quantity of leopard bones (in excess of 5kg).

The existing law has a penalty of two years imprisonment for those involved in trade of the common leopard and its body parts. However, an option to pay a fine of Rs. 28,000 (approximately US$260) to avoid the prison term is also available.   According to a leading wildlife crime investigator, Sub – Inspector Birendra Johari of the Nepal Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB), in most cases those arrested in the leopard trade are freed after paying the fine.

Out of the 23 people arrested for leopard parts trade (Nepal) in 2015, only two served the two years prison sentence.  WildTiger is currently following up on over 30 leopard body parts seizure cases made since that time.  The leopard is not on the Protected Species List in Nepal despite decreasing numbers in many areas.  Long delays before court cases are heard,  inadequate sentences, minimal bail amounts and lack of investigation emphasis are hampering leopard conservation in South Asia, particularly in India and Nepal.

 

 

Conservation and Wildlife Crime – Accuracy of Information is Paramount

In a series of tweets, WildTiger’s Pragati Shahi (@greeningplanet) yesterday challenged information in an article by Mongabay with regards to zero poaching claims made by WWF in Nepal.

We’ll be following up this situation but it does raise once again the serious issue of accuracy of information.  Conservation strategy and particularly donor support depend on the right information being published.  The allocation of resources in the wildlife conservation sector is becoming increasingly controversial and our own research into this issue has revealed some disturbing information.  We’ll have more on this when appropriate.