I have always been inspired by nature, and by the passion and dedication of people working to ensure that nature and wildlife can thrive. When I attended the Symposium: Towards Zero Poaching in Asia recently, I knew I was going to listen and learn from many inspiring individuals who were coming together to tackle a serious crime and threat to many species: illegal wildlife trade.
However to have the opportunity to talk to the people on the ground who are doing the work and have been for many, many years, was what made my trip even more worthwhile. Their stories came to life for me.
After seeing his father courageously devote to the cause of forest conservation Kamal Jung Kunwar has been active in the field of forest, wildlife and environment conservation for the last two decades. He played a crucial role in the conservation of rhinos during his tenure as an assistant warden and the head of the Anti-poaching Operation Unit of the Chitwan National Park, Nepal from 2003 to 2007. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Kamal Jung Kunwar at the Symposium.
Why is Chitwan so special?
Because of its unique biodiversity: 68 mammal species, including rhinos, tigers (around 120), over 100 gharial crocodile, 577 bird species (8% of the world’s bird species are found here).
We have also seen an increase in people’s participation in conservation – communities are receiving benefits from ecotourism for example. 50% of the revenue of the Park goes to local communities living around the Park to help them to manage their surrounding forests, and to respond to the needs of their communities. Chitwan and the surrounding buffer zones help to provide environmental security to local communities.
People depend on water, fuel and food from these areas. If we see deforestation and degradation, then there are landslides and erosion which effects how people are to live and survive. We need people to be able to thrive, as well as nature. Chitwan is the first National Park in Nepal and the 3rd major tourist destination of Nepal – it provides an opportunity to local people for income generation and supports local and national economic development. Let’s not forget it also provides one of the most powerful resources of them all: water. However these resources are under threat, including from poaching and people’s impacts on forests in the areas around the Park.
Anyone who visits’s Chitwan loves Chitwan – tourists, conservationists, researchers. It has taken a lot of hard work to get it to this point. People get out what they put in.
How long have you worked in Chitwan?
About 20 months as Chief Warden. I used to be the assistant warden between 2003 and 2007, and was also Head of the Anti-Poaching Operation Unit in Chitwan when rhino poaching was extremely high. In 2002, 38 rhino were killed. I arrested over 150 poachers over a 4 year period.
What are the challenges?
Poaching; inadequate budget; pressure on natural resources; inadequate human-wildlife harmonisation; forest fires; encroachment; infrastructure development (e.g road proposed through the Park). Many! We need to find ways to achieve human-wildlife harmonisation.
I remember in 2004 a group of villagers in Dibyanagar landed up in a bush where a tigress and three of her cubs were resting. One woman was killed. The tigress then attacked other humans and villagers called her the “man-eater”. The tiger was darted for investigation but then died then and there, a few days later her cubs were killed by the villagers. I came across one of the dead cubs and felt like it was my own son. Even today, that little cub still haunts me. From that day I knew something had to change.
What tools do you use to protect Chitwan?
We raise awareness and involve local communities; Ecotourism is developed in the buffer zone so communities can benefit from conservation of the National Park – if they get benefit they are motivated towards conservation.
Technologies – they are focussed on need-based technology – the technology must be easy to use and to maintain. For example, some models of unmanned aerial vehicles are difficult and expensive to maintain. We are using GPS, smart phones which are easy to use, and are a tremendous help to our patrolling efforts.
How have Whiskas helped?
With Whiskas and WWF support, we are able to buy tents, mobile handsets, solar panels, and even fuel for vehicles, for example, the Government money can pay for a vehicle, but then we don’t have enough budgets to pay for the fuel to run the vehicle as needed. Whiskas have also provided equipment such as bicycles for patrolling. These make it a lot easier to do our job. We can reach areas faster and cover more area than on foot. The support provided by WWF and Whiskas is really helping us to do our job well. I thank them for this.
Have you ever seen a tiger?
Yes, many times! A tiger can easily hide. When I see a tiger or rhino, it’s normal for me, but each time I feel very proud. I am very committed to protecting the wildlife.