How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting wildlife conservation? We’ve just heard from the ZSL team working in Nepal on how they are managing. Thanks to Prachanda Maharjan field officer based in the Parsa field office for sharing this update.
“Parsa National Park (PNP) has suspended non-essential services since the government announced lockdown across the nation to prevent the possible spread of novel coronavirus in the country. However, this is also the time that poachers and smugglers become more active to take advantage of the situation. So, the park’s frontline staff and protection unit are working very hard to combat the crime and poaching these days. The Park has alerted its staff and the security unit deployed in the park to intensify regular monitoring and patrolling from each post. The Rapid Response Command Centre in the headquarter of the park is kept on high alert to tackle the possibility of illegal activities inside the core area of the park and to take quick action if needed.
ZSL Nepal’s Parsa Field Office is located inside the Parsa National Park and staff live close by. So, the office is accessible to all the staff even during the lockdown. We have been coordinating and assisting PNP continuously even in lockdown period. As the park is focusing on strengthening law enforcement in the core areas of the park to curb possible crime and poaching, the regular assistance of ZSL Nepal to park in strengthening law enforcement has also been escalated. ZSL support includes spy cameras and its deployment in different strategic locations, cameras for biological monitoring and its deployment in the hotspot areas of wildlife, data analysis of extracted data from both spy and biological monitoring cameras. We sometimes also support mobility cost in case the patrolling has to be increased.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting to execute some of our supported project activities due to the lockdown. These activities mostly include working with local communities, and representatives such as social surveys, awareness raising programmes and other activities which we must need large gathering.
The core areas of National Park are restricted to general people even access to tourists (both domestic and international) is strictly controlled for an indefinite period until the government comes with a new policy for coronavirus management. So, working in the core areas of the park almost like a quarantine for us. We meet only people from the park. Most of the meetings are held in open space or videoconferencing. We are in touch with all ZSL staff from Kathmandu office and Banke field office too via emails, phone and internet. We often start using videoconferencing for meetings when required. We started practising all the coronavirus infection avoidance precautions disseminated by the Health and Safety team from London, ZSL Kathmandu Office and Nepal government.”
The following have been some remarkable outcomes of the hard working Parsa National Park staff:
- On 27 March 2020 at around 9:40 am patrol deployed for Maha-hunt from the Siddhibox Battalion and group of 10-11 poachers exchange bullet fires in the core area of the Park which lies around 500m east from Mahadev Khola. Bhimlal Moktan, aged 45 years, resident of Hetauda Sub-Metropolitan City -13, Padampokhari was shot dead on the spot. Mohan Singh Dong, aged 37 years from the same area was arrested and under investigation by concerned authorities at PNP. During the gun battle, Nepal Army’s Warrant Officer-Two Mim Bahadur Chhantyal sustained a bullet injury to his right leg. He is currently undergoing treatment at the NA 28 number brigade in Jeetpur, Bara. Logistics confiscated from poachers are 2 sets of Muzzleloader (Homemade firearm), bullets, ammunition, knives, 2 sets of mobile phones, food items like rice, pulses, etc.
- On 27 March 2020, patrol team from Mahadev post has arrested people who entered the park illegally for collecting firewood. The team seized 2 bicycles and an axe from the firewood collectors and slapped Rs 500 fine.”