Executing Agency: Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation
Implementing Agency: Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Department of Forests
Project Co-ordination Unit: National Trust for Nature Conservation
South Asia is home to 13 to 15% of the world's biodiversity and hosts some of the most charismatic and endangered species on Earth. Habitats across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal are home to over 65% of the 3000 or so remaining wild tigers and the Himalaya are the last redoubt of the critically endangered snow leopard whose numbers are unknown.
Nepal's biodiversity is extremely important for the country's economy as well as for the well-being of the people. Forests which comprise 29% of Nepal's land area contribute to about 10% of its GDP. Forests represent the daily source of fuel wood, food, fodder, timber, and medicinal plants for about 80% of the country's population. Some rural populations help to sustain and manage forests in many parts of Nepal. Appropriate and sustainable forest management has led to an increased supply of forest products with obvious livelihoods, sustainable development and conservation. Despite the positive effects from community management of forests and existence of national environmental policies, Nepal's ecosystems have been subjected to growing degradation.
The conservation of natural resources has multiple economic benefits to the county and its people. Ecotourism is globally the fastest growing and most profitable segment of the tourist industry. Estimates suggest that the tourism revenue from habitats rich in biodiversity are still under priced but has great potential. A recent valuation study in India finds that, on average, each hectare of dense forest generates a net present value from ecotourism of about US$ 1,350. It excludes the other benefits that forests bring such as timber, fodder, traditional medicines, bio=prospectivity, non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and watershed benefits, perhaps, even more significant.
Governments in Asia are keenly aware of the benefits from biodiversity and the risks of biodiversity loss. Asian countries have been among the world's leaders in adopting legislation and ratifying international conventions for biodiversity conservation. They have devoted substantial resources to habitat conservation and to enforcement of anti-poaching legislation. Despite the governmental investments, south Asia faces daunting challenges that are growing more severe. Habitat fragmentation and poaching for illegal wildlife trade are the most significant threats to biodiversity.
With South Asia's rich biodiversity, wildlife is a lucrative target of the trade. Victims of the trade are many and varied and include the iconic tiger and elephant, snow leopard, common leopard, one horn rhino, pangolin, brown bear, several species of deer and reptiles, seahorses, star tortoises, butterflies, peacocks, hornbills, parrots, parakeets and birds of prey, and corals.
Lack of Consistency in the enforcement of controls remains one of the greatest problems in the region. Currently, there is no legislation in Bhutan to allow law enforcement agencies to chect and apprehend foreign traders. It is clear that no single country-acting alone- can eliminate the perils to south Asia's wildlife resources. Improved and more effective patrolling of Pas is one approach for addressing the poaching threat. However, tackling the challenge calls for a regional approach. Close collaboration is needed among nations and regions along the trade route as well as the centers of consumption (e.g., East Asia and North America). Thus this project aims to address the mitigation of a regional public bad (illegal wildlife trade across borders) as the supply of wildlife parts are sourced from across South Asia and South East Asia.