Monday, July 23, 2018

Echo of Young Voices in Conservation

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Eight years ago, a 19-year-old boy and his 9 colleagues tried to enter the Singh Durbar, a palace complex in the centre of Kathmandu, housing most of the ministries and high-level offices of the Government of Nepal. The young group was outraged by massive ongoing poaching of One-horned rhinos, and the silence of the government on corruption cases related to the rhino investigations. They wanted to meet the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means, which is responsible for conservation-related issues in the parliament. I was privileged to lead that team eight years ago; the National Youth Alliance for Rhino Conservation which formed as a youth wing of Team for Nature and Wildlife.
NYARC submitting Letter of Memorandum to Chair of Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means, Shanta Chaudhary, 16 July 2010.
Our main aim was to bring attention to the poaching of one-horned rhinos and to educate, inspire and engage youth in raising their voices on rhino conservation. At that time, we lacked both the capacity and resources to organize ‘big’ events with concerned stakeholders. Even if we managed to organize via fundraising, we were skeptical that the authorities would listen to us as university freshers, with nothing but willpower. Instead, we tried a simple yet innovative approach, including writing letters to the editors of the major national dailies, visiting various colleges and universities, and organising rallies.
After doing so for a few months, people started to listen to us and we were able to organise events at the Nepal Bar Association and the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists. We also succeeded in holding a series of meetings with the chair of Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means: Shanta Chaudhary and Attorney General Dr. Yubaraj Sangroula. Most importantly, we filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding investigations on the corruption issues, and stiff penalties for poacher and trader. The small movement of university students tremendously contributed to sensitize the concerned stakeholders to act, achieving the zero poaching of the rhinos in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
Rhino poaching was one of the many conservation challenges that Nepal was facing. After realizing the gravity of youth-led action during the rhino conservation movement, we formed a science-driven non-profit organization called Greenhood Nepal in order to lead effective human dimensions of nature conservation, including through public education, policy engagement, capacity-building and civic action across Nepal.
The first batch of Conservation School, 2012, Sindhupalchok, Nepal
One of our ongoing impactful initiatives is scaling up pangolin conservation in Nepal. In this program, we organize an annual roundtable on pangolin inviting government, enforcement, researchers, and other conservation agencies to discuss the recent status and challenges of pangolin. We share all the information by using #NepalPangolin. The first ever roundtable 2015 concluded by recommending a national survey and conservation action plan for pangolin. The roundtable turned out very effective as it brings the community to the government on the same table. Consequently, both national survey and conservation action plan for pangolins seen on the table during roundtable 2017. Currently, we are conducting cutting-edge research, training new conservation community to understand the complex conservation problems that Nepal is facing. At the same time, we are educating the general public to policy makers via Conservation School and policy events & media outreach respectively. Conservation School aware and empowers frontliner communities to conserve endangered species and their habitat. We also provide intelligence and training to the enforcement agencies to curb the poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

Roundtable on pangolin, 2015.
When we started none of us had a university degree in conservation, we lacked financial resources as well as any support. It was very difficult to convince people that conservation of endangered species was important when they had other priorities just to fulfil their basic needs. Yet, we did not lose our hope and continuing the range of conservation initiatives. After all, the world cannot afford to ruin the system that governs and supports our own life system.
This was originally published in Conservation Optimism. 

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