Photo: Sheren Shrestha/WWF Nepal.
Our world is full of ironies. And at times thankfully so. At one end of the conservation spectrum, scientific research provides evidence of the sixth mass extinction of global biodiversity, fuelled by people’s thoughtless actions. At the other end are cases of victories – revival of local wildlife populations, due to human initiatives and positive action. No story represents this better than that of the tiger.
I have been fortunate to work with protagonists of conservation in India, and be associated with these stories of change. Notwithstanding questions on national populations, experts agree on the improved status of tigers in well-managed Protected Areas (PAs) in the country.
In 2016, I returned to my native country of Nepal, amidst news of successes in tiger conservation. Nepal, like India, has been working to protect its tigers. Its tiger population increased from 121 in 2008 to 198 in 2013, a 63 per cent spike in five years! While Nepal’s achievement, including possibly meeting the Tx2 target well in advance, was exhorted, there has been little mention of the efforts that went into bringing this about.
When I joined WWF Nepal that year, my colleague Sabita Malla offered me an opportunity to document the Himalayan nation’s success story. This is the story of Banke – a young national park created to boost the country’s efforts to double its tiger population. “Banke is one among many victories that helped Nepal’s case for the tigers,” she said.
Photo: Simrika Sharma/WWF Nepal.
A Diamond in the Rough
Spread across 550 sq. km., this western Nepal Protected Area is part of the much larger, 49,000 sq. km. transboundary Terai Arc Landscape (TAL). Contiguous with the Bardia National Park, it is connected to the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary in India and supports over 300 species of birds and 34 species of mammals including tigers.
In 1998, two decades prior to its notification as a national park, Banke was recognised for its rich biodiversity, as a ‘Gift to the Earth’ by the WWF Network. Nonetheless, comprising...