Nepali officials meet with Forest Department personnel and civil society in Darjeeling


A transboundary visit to Darjeeling was organized by ICIMOD for researchers and independent experts from the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology affiliated to Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu. The visit was led by Mr Krishna Prasad Acharya, the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal. In Darjeeling, Nepali officials met with representatives of the Forest Department, civil society, zoo researchers, and other officials. During meetings with Forest Department officers in the Singhalila Wildlife Sanctuary, which lies on the border between the eastern Nepal hill districts and Darjeeling District, issues to do with local and cross border illegal trade, medicinal plants, grazing, and differences in the management regimes between the two countries were shared and discussed. It was realized that there is a need to monitor the flagship species red panda (Ailurus fulgens), which has its habitat in these areas. There were further interactions with civil society and non-government organizations in Darjeeling engaged in conservation and development. Controversial issues such as human wildlife conflict, unmanaged tourism, waste management, livelihoods, and development were discussed at length. The group also shared experiences from the initial phase of the Transboundary Biodiversity Management project initiated by ICIMOD in 2003. 

Nepali contingent took the opportunity to visit Tiger Hill to see one of the most famous views of the Kangchenjunga Landscape, stretching across Bhutan, India, and Nepal, as well as to witness the influx and impacts of unmanaged tourism within Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. A visit to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling enabled Nepali officials to meet zoo officials and researchers and share lessons from successful conservation and breeding programmes conducted by the zoo, especially of flagship species found in the landscape, such as the snow leopard (Uncia uncia) and red panda (Ailurus fulgens). 

Lastly, Nepali officials met with Forest Department officials in the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in the foothills of Darjeeling District. The discussion focused on elephant migration, human wildlife conflict, and the illicit felling of trees. Both parties were eager to learn what measures are being taken by India and Nepal to address the menace posed by elephants migrating from Nepal to Bhutan. Habitat degradation, disturbance of migratory route by new human settlements, and retaliating killings were discussed. Information sharing, joint patrols, and habitat management with proper land use practices were suggested as corrective measures.