Community stewardship for pangolins in Nepal
I am back again with some significant updates of pangolin conservation project in eastern Nepal. We established two village level pangolin conservation committees and eighteen pangolin conservation sub-committees in Nangkholyang and Dokhu village of Taplejung district. A total of 263 participants are affiliated in pangolin conservation work through these conservation committees in the villages. We reached over 1000 individuals through surveys, community meetings, workshops, education programmes and pangolin conservation talks.
We explained the importance of national parks and wildlife conservation act 1973 of Nepal on wildlife conservation during awareness raising activities. According to section 26 of the act, any person who kills or injures pangolin shall be punished with a fine ranging from forty to seventy five thousand rupees, or face an imprisonment ranging from one year to ten years or both. Similarly, section 25 of the act did provision of reward as any person who furnishes information about a poacher who has killed or injured pangolin and leads to his arrest may be rewarded with an amount of up to twenty five thousand rupees.
The pangolin conservation groups are continuing to work very hard. They are helping to raise awareness for pangolin conservation and discouraging illegal activities. I am delighted to share with you news from a pangolin conservation group un Dokhu Village. On 2nd May 2014, seven local people were travelling from one village to another at around 9 pm to participate in a local function. They found a pangolin in Motor Road walking slowly. When they showed torch light the pangolin curled up. They brought it in the village and kept for 30 minutes. The pangolin secreted saliva like material from its mouth and secreted urine 10-15 times in a small amount during that period. Mr. Himal Nepal and Mr. Taman Poudel who are in a pangolin conservation sub-committee of Dokhu ward no. 4 described about the importance of pangolin conservation among villagers and making a common understanding for pangolin conservation they released the pangolin below the house in forest area. Next day, they went into the released site and found 3-4 burrows around. Then after, they did not see the pangolin in that location perhaps went into new and safe area. This shows that the villagers are aware of the importance of pangolins and brought it into the village without killing it and wanted to release it.
Nangkholyang, is my own village where I was born and completed secondary school. I was in communication with my relatives and friends over telephone during the project development phase. When I got the EDGE fellowship, I visited the field site first time in Nangkholyang for pangolin conservation in 2012. The same day when I reached my village for conservation work, some of my villagers found a pangolin. They killed the pangolin, brought to their home, boiled on water, taken out scales and used meat as food. I was completely unaware of this even though I was staying next door. They kept everything secret from me as they were scared of me informing the police. I spent a few days in the village organising community meetings, established pangolin conservation committees, carried out interview surveys, taught school children, posted boards with conservation messages, deployed camera traps and carried out burrow surveys. I mobilized the locals to conserve pangolins unaware of the recent killing. When I returned for my second visit the individuals realized their mistake and showed me the scales and explained to me. They are now very active in the conservation committee and are very supportive of pangolin conservation. This highlights the difficulty of my work but also the possibility for behaviour change.I am confident that our education efforts have helped to raise awareness and encourage positive change for pangolin conservation. Generally if found pangolins, local people kill them, use their meat as delicacy and keep scales in the houses to sell. They hardly tell others about the killings and keep all information secret. It would be good to describe an incident which had happened before launching pangolin conservation project.
The next step is to provide equipment (cameras and GPS) to the pangolin conservation committees along with training for young people to regularly monitor the pangolins around their villages.