Nepal Red Caps Programme

To monitor, understand and resolve human–wildlife conflicts in Nepal by training local people

 

As the human population expands, natural habitats shrink, leading to increased human–wildlife conflicts. The impacts of such conflict are often huge: people lose their crops, livestock, property and sometimes their lives. The wild animals, many of which belonging to threatened species, are often killed in retaliation or to prevent future conflicts. Human–wildlife conflict is one of the main threats to the continued survival of many species in many parts of the world, and is also a major threat to many local communities. If conflicts are not addressed quickly, the local support for conservation declines drastically.

For example, there were only two wild elephants (Elephas maximus) in Bardia during early 1990s: at that time, the level of conflict between wild elephants and humans was insignificant. This scenario has remarkably changed after a dramatic increase in the elephant population, which now is about 80. This population increase, due to elephants crossing the border from India, has led to an escalation of human–elephant conflicts: in a survey in Bardia's buffer zone, the elephants were reported to cause substantial damage to agriculture and property (mainly housing) every year. Besides, local people were also reported killed (three in 2007 alone) while chasing elephants from their paddy fields. In less than a decade, 64 people were badly injured and 15 were killed due to elephant attacks outside the Park. Prejudices towards the elephants are spreading, particularly since the elephant population is growing.

Similarly, wild boar (Sus scrofa), spotted deer (Axis axis), tiger (Panthera tigris), leopard (Panthera pardus), greater one horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) and langurs (Presbytis entellus) are among the wildlife species that also cause substantial damage to crops and cause conflict.

 

Documentation on human–wildlife conflict is very poor. Understanding the dire need to create a scientific database on human–wildlife conflict, Awely – in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and Bardia's Buffer Zone Management Committee – has proposed to standardise data recording systems and develop practical mechanisms to minimise the extent of human–wildlife conflict.

The "Red Caps" are part of a broad programme Awely has been developing in different regions of the world. They are selected from the local population, trained and paid by Awely, in collaboration with our partner conservation organisation based in the country: NTNC.

Among our goals are: to monitor, understand and resolve the origins and consequences of the conflicts between men and animals (through investigations), to organise workshops with the populations (involved as much as possible), to improve vigilance and cooperation between land owners, to supply them with training materials and to assist them into the settling of micro-projects.

Through the "Red Caps", the project creates sustainable cohabitation – profitable to both people and wildlife. In collaboration with the NTNC's Bardia Conservation Programme and DNPWC's Bardia National Park, Awely develops its "Red Caps" actions at the south and south-western areas of the buffer zone. Awely's "Red Caps" programme has been welcomed and well appreciated by the Trust, the Park authorities and the local communities.

With an aim to understand and evaluate the problems, two "Red Caps" have been employed in this region of Nepal and have been investigating each conflict's case in their area in detail. When going on site, they question people, take pictures and precisely describe the damage, location, species and number of individuals involved by filling a form. Having accurate information and a map of the areas of vulnerability is necessary to get a clear idea of the situation.

 

In 2009, our staff members have investigated the following conflicts:

 

Damage to crops: 476

Attacks on cattle: 66

Damage to houses: 2

People wounded: 2

People killed: 1

 

The information gathered are saved and analysed by Awely's staff in a dedicated database, when it will also be compared to conflicts in other places or countries in Awely's network, which contain the same species. Awely subsequently draws up an appropriate strategy, in collaboration with our partners.

By organising workshops, the "Red Caps" are able to provide communities with information on preventive measures, especially by giving some examples and demonstrations of what has been successfully tried somewhere else. This is based on Awely's conflicts network and includes workshops on: animals' behaviour, regulated harvesting, construction of fences, chilli fencing, guarding livestock and crops, chemical repellents, growing of alternative crops, auditory, visual or olfactory stimuli used as repellent, diversion, land use modification, better and different landscape management, etc.

 

During 2009, an electric fence was installed along the park border. It has helped to reduce the number of conflicts. The "Red Caps" teach villagers how to maintain the fence and regularly verify its condition. For example, one of our staff members trained six groups of villagers in these techniques. One of the key messages we are communicating concerns planting crops in the fields near the fences that are not attractive to the specific animals, such as elephants or rhinos.  While the collection of information on the conflict remains a priority for the "Red Caps", the other aspects of our programme are also being gradually introduced.

WAZA Conservation Project 08011 is implemented by AWELY in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation – Bardia Conservation Programme and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation – Bardia National Park and is supported by the Le Pal Foundation and Save the Rhino International.

 

Visit www.awely.org.

 

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