Nepal, China to sign pact to save the tiger
October 25th, 2009 – 5:54 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Oct 25 (IANS) Concerned at the spurt in the smuggling of rare animal organs and skins to China and India via Nepal, the coalition government of Nepal is pressing China to sign an agreement in a bid to jointly man the common border and curb the menace.
“We have forwarded a draft of the memorandum of understanding to the Chinese government and are hoping it will be signed in November,” said Nepal’s Forest Minister Deepak Bohra, ahead of a key meeting on tiger conservation to be held in Kathmandu from Tuesday.
China, which farms tigers for commercial use, is also the world’s biggest consumer of tiger organs, which are believed by the Chinese to have medicinal and aphrodisiac powers.
Two years ago, at another international meet in Kathmandu to discuss strategies by countries with wild tigers on how to protect and increase their numbers, Chinese tiger farm representatives had been lobbying for the lifting of the 1993 international ban on trade in tiger parts.
Though the ban still remains, it is expected that at the four-day Global Tiger Workshop 2009 in Kathmandu, which will be attended by over 200 participants comprising policy and decision-makers, scientists, conservationists from all the tiger range countries, partner organisations and individuals, China will renew the lobby.
“The MoU discussed between Nepal and China is a welcome step in the conservation of endangered wildlife,” said Ghanshyam Gurung of the World Wildlife Fund. “In the past, China had been refusing to acknowledge at all that there was a trade in banned animal organs. Now it is ready to talk about it.”
The smuggling network extends from India to China with Darchula in farwestern Nepal increasingly becoming the border point used by poachers.
Nepal plans to discuss strategies with China to step up joint vigilance along the northern border it shares with China-held Tibet, share information between the security agencies of both countries and train security, customs and forest officials for regular monitoring.
Though Nepal also has a similar pact with its southern neighbour India, it has been rusting due to political changes in both countries.
While forest officials are scheduled to hold meetings every two years to assess the situation and improve the existing vigilance, such a meeting has not been held for several years.
Bohra told IANS that Nepal is also seeking a similar pact with Thailand.
Besides government-to-government interactions, Nepal is also focusing on raising social awareness, especially through the media.
“The actual poacher gets a fraction of the money killing a tiger,” Bohra said. “Poaching is also linked with poverty and we need to address that too.”
The key partners of the workshop include CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Secretariat, Global Tiger Forum, Global Tiger Initiative, World Bank, Save the Tiger Fund, National Trust for Nature Conservation and WWF Nepal.
The main goal of the four-day workshop, to be inaugurated by Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, is to define strategic actions to save the wild tiger from extinction.
The experts will assess the present situation, challenges and strategies for wild tiger conservation and identify the most urgent needs and priority actions to be implemented.
It is also looking at generating agreements among the tiger range countries on effective monitoring indicators for conservation and management of tigers, prey and habitat including trans-boundary cooperation requirements.
The Global Tiger Workshop will be followed by a conference of forest ministers from Asian countries to be held in Thailand in January 2010