Over the years, Nepal has made significant progress in wildlife conservation, be it tiger, rhino or blackbuck. While it is easier to deal with the threats posed by herbivores, the same cannot be said for carnivores. Bardia in recent years has become a tiger conservation success story and is set to receive the Tx2 International Award in Russia this year for its significant progress in improving numbers. But all of this comes at a price for residents living on the outskirts of the conservation area.
While increasing tiger numbers may sound like a job well done, that’s not particularly the case for those who face the trials and tribulations of life on the fringes of a wildlife sanctuary. Startling statistics are beginning to emerge over the years. There have been increasing reports of tiger attacks on people resulting in death. Despite assurances from park authorities about the availability of sufficient prey for tigers and improved security conditions, up to 23 people have died in tiger attacks in Bardia alone, and six have been killed in Banke since 2019 .
Incidentally, the attacks and deaths are directly proportional to the increase in the tiger population in Bardia National Park, which rose from 18 individuals in 2009 to 87 in 2018. Behind all these international successes, distinctions and awards, there There was a price, especially for the locals: they had to pay for it with their lives. The growing threat to people’s lives requires immediate attention from authorities to ensure the issue does not escalate beyond measure. And the first of these is whether the continued increase in the tiger population is even sustainable given the limited space of the sanctuary. If so, how do the authorities seek to justify the increase in human deaths?
Conservation is about achieving a sense of ecological balance. Although it is essential to combat animal poaching and Nepal is successfully helping to improve the number of wild animals, the efforts of the authorities are commendable. But should conservation be done at the cost of human lives? Therefore, in terms of achieving balance, it has not shown the same level of success. The loss of human lives and habitats is a subject less discussed by both the authorities and the conservation organization. So far, the method has clearly protected wildlife but completely ignored the issues of people’s lives and livelihoods.
It is, however, a difficult situation to overcome. It would be difficult for the authorities to prohibit the inhabitants from visiting the forest because they too depend on it. And simple reparations for lost lives would never make up for the void in people’s lives because of the loss of loved ones. Perhaps the focus should be on sustainability rather than achieving increased numbers, which is proving unmanageable. Finding better habitats for tigers and controlling unprecedented increases would go a long way to ensuring their suitability. Nothing can be achieved materially without the support of the local community; therefore, it would be best to keep the interest of the community at the center of any future conservation campaign.