Koshi Conservation Centre, or NTNC-KCC, has officially been established as NTNC's newest project office in eastern Nepal. An inauguration event to mark the milestone was held yesterday on September 17 by the Hon'ble Minister for Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Mr. Gyanendra Bahadur Karki among some 300 attendees, including senior government officials, local government representatives, community members, Nepal Army personnel, conservation stakeholders, and the media. The event was chaired by NTNC Chairperson Dr Krishna Prasad Oli.
The new project is meant to support the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) enhance the conservation value of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR)—a 175 square kilometre protected area situated in the Saptakoshi River plain of south-eastern Nepal that serves as a prime habitat for diverse wildlife and wetland ecosystems.
Koshi Conservation Centre (KCC) will be NTNC's eight project in the country. Prior to this the Trust's Koshi-related operations were overseen from its Biodiversity Conservation Centre (NTNC-BCC) office in Sauraha, Chitwan. A dedicated project now means that NTNC will have its physical presence across all the protected areas in the Terai region of Nepal, extending the much necessary conservation support into eastern Nepal, where human-elephant conflict are the severest in the country.
At the event, Minister Karki expressed high level of optimism on the establishment of the new project. He called on the need for a perspective shift among the people of KTWR, from viewing the reserve as being problem-rampant to positioning it as a solution-capable place of the future. The minister said that, together with government and conservation stakeholders, local elected leaders and community representatives have an important role to play towards enhancing the conservation value of the important biological site. Along with improved capacity to manage the prevailing human-wildlife situation in Koshi, he underscored the importance of the new project in enabling a science-based and innovation-led approach to conservation, together with opening up possibilities for improved livelihoods and nature-based tourism opportunities for eastern Nepal as a whole.
Addressing the gathering were also two community-level representatives—Chairman of the Wild Animal Victim Struggle Committee Mr Pancha Narayan Mandal, and the Chairman of KTWR buffer zone area management committee Mr Birendra Yadav—and two local government leaders—the Chairperson of Koshi Rural Municipality Mr Ayub Ansari and Mayor of Barahakhsetra Muncipality Mr Neelam Khanal—who shared about the day to day wildlife-related problems faced by people in the region, local conservation perspectives, and about potential ideas for enhancing KTWR's conservation effectiveness.
Speaking on behalf of the government were the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MOFE) Secretary Dr Pem Narayan Kandel, DNPWC Director General Dr Deepak Kumar Kharal, and KTWR Chief Conservation Officer Mr Ashok Ram, who drew attention to specific areas that the new project was expected to deliver, along with its corresponding linkages and opportunities. NTNC-KCC's objectives and priorities was conveyed by the NTNC Chairperson Dr Krishna Prasad Oli, along with NTNC's institutional background that was made known by the NTNC Member Secretary Mr Sharad Chandra Adhikary.
Some of the target areas that NTNC-KCC will be prioritizing include, support in reducing eastern Nepal's human-wildlife conflict, especially focusing on human-elephant conflict issues; wildlife rescue and problem animal management, where going forward a dedicated wildlife rescue team will be set up; wildlife research and monitoring of the reserve's "threatened" fauna like the Bengal florican, Gangetic dolphin, Fishing cat, along with other winter water birds and aquatic fauna; grassland management initiatives focusing on Bengal florican and Arna conservation; along with enhancing community engagement in wildlife conservation. To build on some of these targets, NTNC has also recently entered into an agreement with KTK-BELT (Koshi Tappu Kanchenjunga Biodiversity Education and Livelihood Terra-Studio), a US-based non-profit.