What does it take to curb wildlife poaching?

Kumar Paudel is an established conservationist. He is the founder of Greenhood Nepal and the co-chair representing South Asia in the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group. I have had the privilege of interviewing Kumar to discuss the topic surrounding illegal wildlife trading.
What does it take to curb wildlife poaching?
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Kumar Paudel, founder of Greenhood Nepal

As a young boy growing up in remote Nepal, Kumar couldn't help but notice the prevalence of wildlife poaching activities in his village. The compassion he had for wildlife prompted him to choose the path of becoming a conservationist.

Starting out as a conservation activist, he began to realise the impact that communities can have, on the authorities. He quoted

"Even when we had no expertise and power or status as officials in the government, we ( my friends and I ) still managed to persuade the government to investigate illegal poaching activities of Rhino in the country in 2010. This realisation had led us to the founding of Greenhood Nepal"

Tara : What do you think is the key to curbing illegal poaching  ?

Kumar : First, it is important to understand the reason for a particular species' deterioration. It could be due to factors like a lack of conservation awareness, weak enforcement, or that the severity of the punishment is not enough to deter poachers. It could also be that poaching is difficult to monitor, especially when it is outside protected areas. For example, in Nepal, pangolins are one of the most heavily protected species by law, nevertheless, it is one of the most poached and traded animals, as most of them are outside the protected area. Law enforcement always has its limitation. Therefore, raising community awareness of pangolins is key.  

Tara : Can you elaborate on the current illegal wildlife trade situation in Nepal and what do you think can be done to improve this?

Kumar : Nepal has set a remarkable example to the world in terms of controlling poaching
of threatened megafauna in the country’s key national parks. Take a look at Chitwan National Park for example, which is recovering one of the last populations of the one-horned rhinoceros and is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal Tiger. The challenge is to control the poaching of neglected but threatened species and those which are outside the protected area. There are still many species that are on the brink of extinction but are often not considered in conservation priorities. So, our goal through Greenhood Nepal is to understand more about these species and to bring about awareness of the importance of safeguarding these wildlife species in communities and government.

Tara : It makes me happy to hear wherever a conservation effort is successful like what Chitwan National Park has achieved. And, yes I do agree with your statement of how there is the dilemma of resources being finite when trying to extend conservation efforts.  I suppose then a way to overcome this dilemma, is to try to influence the government & community to make the right decisions around this topic. How can that be achieved in your opinion?

Kumar : First we have to play our part in understanding the roots of a particular conservation problem and then communicating that information in a simple way that caters to a non-specialist audience. This step is crucial so that people can relate to what we are saying .

 Tara : Well then, how do you respond to people when they ask the question 'Why do we have to care'?

Kumar : Hahaha, yes I do find myself in such situations quite often. When speaking with authorities, I simply mention that there shouldn't be a reason for me to justify why a threatened species need protection. When I speak to a minister for example, I explain that they are not only a minister to the people but also to the wildlife and nature that comes under their authority. To people and the community, I use a different approach. We organise educational and awareness campaigns  to help instil love and empathy towards wildlife in them.  That is the only way we as a society can really make a difference 

Tara : Oh wow! That's genius! I never really thought about it that way but I guess you are right. This will make people feel empowered and that they really can make a positive difference if they wanted to even if it's just one person at a time. Thank you very much for your time, Kumar. I really enjoyed our conversation. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and I am sure more achievements will come your way. 

Based on my interview with Kumar, it seems to me that once we start to view the world as our home to care for, we will develop a love for wildlife and nature. I have also realised that instead of an egoistic approach by condemning society or government actions that negatively impact wildlife, it is better to foster mutual understanding with everyone and try to empower people with the responsibility they hold to create a better world.

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Go to the profile of Christine Tansey
12 months ago

Enjoyed this interview @Taranee, interesting perspective on how government officials can be ministers for all life and the environment, not just people!

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
12 months ago

Such a positive and inspiring contribution! Thank you Tara @Taranee and @Kumar Paudel for sharing your reflections and insights with our community.

@Kumar Paudel, I especially like how you approached the ministers in your country, by saying that they are not only a minister to the people but also to the wildlife and nature that fall under their authority. Have you found a particular approach that works well, in your experience, to help instil love and empathy towards wildlife among the communities you work with? 

@Taranee : would you perhaps consider recording your next expert interview as a video? I really enjoyed your responses and it would make for a nice change in how you share your lessons learned contributions (just a suggestion of course, so up to you :)