Nepal // The Western Terai //

Bardia in the balance

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Nepal’s wildlife parks never sit easily with the inhabitants of nearby villages, who not only are barred from their former woodcutting areas but must also cope with marauding animals. In the case of Bardia, the potential for resentment is especially high, because the government actually reintroduced rhinos to the area, giving local farmers a headache they thought they’d gotten rid of. It’s estimated that half the crops in fields adjoining Bardia are damaged by wildlife (primarily by rhinos and elephants). While local people are still occasionally injured and even killed by wild animals, safety has improved since an electric fence was installed around part of the park.

As in Chitwan, Bardia’s long-term viability depends as much on human factors as ecological ones, and recent initiatives have reflected this. Between thirty and fifty percent of the National Park’s income is spent in the buffer zones, and the number of local Tharu people involved in Bardia’s tourism trade has also increased in recent years. Chitkya Community Forest, along the park’s eastern border, is being managed to allow it to regenerate naturally, providing a source of firewood and increased habitat for animals in the park. Elsewhere, the problem is rather that bushes and trees encroach on the vital grassland needed by deer and tigers, and locals are given controlled access to collect wood.

Other projects prioritize the needs of animals over humans. A notable one aims to create wildlife corridors linking together national parks including Sukla Phanta, Bardia, Banke and Chitwan in Nepal, and Dudhwa and Corbett National Parks in India. Such corridors reflect natural migration patterns, and are seen as vital for maintaining viable breeding populations. They are threatened, however, by deforestation and population growth, which runs the risk of leaving animals marooned in separate national parks. Wildlife corridors are seen as the only way for animal populations to be able to exchange genes without the aid of trucks and tranquillizer guns.

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