[21 October 2021]
NTNC's 40th Founding Day comes at a time of incredible challenges to nature and biodiversity. The world is already in the midst of a health emergency with the COVID-19 pandemic. Over one million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, and scientists estimate some 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in mammal and birds, of which up to 827,000 have the ability to spill over into humans, driven mostly as a result of land-use change. Only recently the UN Secretary General has made the case of a global climate emergency with catastrophic consequences if real actions are not taken to speed and scale. In short our planet's fundamental life support systems seem to be at a tipping point today.
Taking perspective of the far-reaching and multidimensional facets of nature conservation, back in 1982, NTNC was conceptualized as an autonomous non-for-profit institution and was established by a Legislative Act of the Parliament. The goal was to enhance specialized support to the Government of Nepal to meet its conservation needs and ambitions. Our initial project, the Tiger Ecology Project in Chitwan, supported by the Smithsonian Institution, and later the Nepal Terai Ecology Project, focusing on using science and community-based measures to revive Nepal's dwindling rhino population and reforesting park buffer zone areas, were both met with resounding success.
In 1986, taking stock of the biological, ecological, and cultural importance of the Annapurna region, after making broad studies of the area, NTNC launched the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). ACAP was a paradigm shift in Nepal's protected area management system, demonstrating for the first time that community-based conservation worked wonders. For this reason NTNC is still credited as pioneering the ICDP model that integrates conservation and development principles to achieve a win-win balance between nature and people. ACAP's success subsequently led to the government handing over management responsibility of two more conservation areas to NTNC, in Manaslu (MCAP) and in Gaurishankar (GCAP). NTNC's research and impact studies have led the groundwork for promoting local-to-global dialogue, response and collaborative action across Nepal's protected area network and natural resource management system, further centering the role and aspirations of local communities as co-protected area managers and primary conservation beneficiaries.
Together with managing three conservation areas in the mountains, NTNC has been managing the Central Zoo, Nepal's only national zoo, since the past 25 years. Today with wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, problem animal management and human-wildlife conflict become major challenges in Nepal's conservation space, along with animal management and conservation education, the zoo also serves as a primary wildlife rescue and treatment facility in the country. On average NTNC rescues some 500 animals every year, as wildlife rescue demands continue to rise across the country.
Focusing on the rich biodiversity of Nepal's tarai region, today we have set up dedicated project facilities throughout all of the tarai national parks in Chitwan, Parsa, Bardia, Banke, Shuklaphanta, and also recently in the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, from where we mobilize on-the-ground technical capacities and expertise to support national park authorities and buffer zone communities.
With some of the country's finest wildlife biologists, technicians and researchers at NTNC, including academic collaborations with reputed research institutions abroad, we are able to implement cutting-edge technologies and keep science and innovation relevant to Nepal's conservation endeavors. On an average our researchers publish some 10-12 peer-reviewed research papers every year in renowned international journals staying at the frontiers of scientific discourse to guide Nepal's policy makers. This kind of capacity has been instrumental in the success of some of Nepal's flagship species like tiger, rhino, elephant, and snow leopard, among other threatened wildlife.
Notwithstanding these feats, the present challenges to the natural heritage of the world require greater ambition and resolve. To come to terms with the conservation challenges of our times today we work principally under five thematic areas: at the species level, protected areas and ecosystems level, for conservation economy promotion, climate action, and knowledge, research and education, all along with enhancing GESI and governance as cross-cutting themes.
We think that new opportunities in wildlife genetics and zoonosis, ecosystem restoration through ensuring ecological intactness and habitat connectivity, landscape to integrated river basin conservation and management approaches, managing socio-ecological complexities through devising context specific protected area management solutions, incentivizing nature-based livelihoods and promoting green investments in infrastructure, businesses and skills, and moving towards low carbon pathways and community resiliency building measures will be the way of the future. NTNC's recent accreditation as a Green Climate Fund (GCF) institution opens up numerous possibilities in this space. More novel ways to create wider awareness and education, and ensuring inclusivity and equitable access to opportunities, together with capacity building measures will continue to be vital.
Yesterday our team at NTNC under the leadership of our Chairman Dr. Madhav Bahadur Karki had the opportunity to interact with the Hon'ble Minister for Forests and Environment Mr. Ramsahay Prasad Yadav, who visited us on our special day, to learn and discuss about new ways to further enhance NTNC's support for accelerating the government's biodiversity and climate-related targets and the SDGs. The Hon'ble minister was accompanied by high-level government officials led by the MOFE Secretary Dr. Pem Narayan Kandel, together with the Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Dr. Ramchandra Kandel, where we had very frank and fruitful discussions on ways to overcome some of the emerging challenges to biodiversity conservation in Nepal, COVID-19's impact on protected area communities, increasing challenges from human-wildlife conflict, climate change-related issues, along with prospects in futurizing nature-based tourism, climate resilience projects, green economy capacities and value chains.
As NTNC enters into its fifth decade, I would like to call on a renewed sense of purpose and resolve-making for nature. As a legacy institution we stand on the shoulder of many a great minds and institutions, partners and donors whose trust and support have been significant to our success, both from inside home and from abroad. Moving forward we are determined to become a center of excellence in the area of the wildlife sciences and community-based conservation in Nepal. Without your support and cooperation this will be a difficult task. On behalf of NTNC I want to reemphasize my commitment, as well as the great need and opportunity of our times, to make "conservation for prosperity" a true reality of Nepal. Indeed it is about time we all made our peace with nature.
Sharad Chandra Adhikary