Economic Incentives and Poaching of the One-Horned Indian Rhinoceros in Nepal Stakeholder Perspectives in Biodiversity Conservation: Analysis of Local, National and Global Stakes in Rhino Conservation in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal
48 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2005 Last revised: 5 May 2023
Date Written: August 15, 2005
The one-horned Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is of special conservation importance, and plays a key role in Nepal's growing eco-tourism industry. Abundant in the past, this rhino population now faces a multitude of threats, the most serious of which is poaching for valuable rhino horn. The main aim of this research was to carry out a stakeholder analysis in order to determine who has a stake in the welfare of Terai's rhino population. A household survey (444 interviews) was conducted in six different villages in the buffer zone of the Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP). Tourists' attitudes towards national parks and eco-tourism in Nepal, as well as their opinions on forest and wildlife conservation, were also examined.
Stakeholder analysis revealed that there are five major stakeholders in the RCNP buffer zone: i) landless/marginalized households, ii) farmers, iii) tourism and related sectors, iv) visitors and non-users and v) government/NGOs. Each group represents different interests with regard to park management and rhino conservation. Loss of crops and livestock presents a major management problem around the RCNP buffer zone in the view of local farmers. Non-farmer groups, like the Chepang, Bote and Majhi communities, pledged to be rhino herders if the government provided them with job opportunities. Other non-farmers claimed they wouldn't disturb rhinos (or other wild animals) if they could use forest and water resources for longer periods of time on a regulated basis. Local poachers explained that they were looking for alternative sources of income to avoid being involved in such a risky business. The park authority considered the establishment of the national park (and subsequent conservation of rhinos) to have not only contributed to the national economy, but also to community development in buffer zone areas. As nature and wildlife form the basis of the eco-tourism industry, tourism entrepreneurs believed they had also contributed positively to local conservation. Despite some negative impacts on their livelihoods, local people valued rhinos and equated them with national wealth. They believed rhinos have a right to co-exist with the surrounding human population.
The discrete choice experiment conducted confirmed that all stakeholder groups found the proposed management scenarios more attractive than the status quo. Most respondents were in favour of compensation for rhino-related damage, and supported a community development program funded by parks revenues. Interestingly, the general preference for these compensatory measures peaked at about 50%, indicating that either respondents do not require full compensation, or they do not believe higher amounts would be forthcoming. Respondents would particularly value increased tourism employment opportunities and greater possibilities to use park resources. Most importantly, if these compensatory measures were put in place, the majority of respondents would have a clear linear preference for more rhinos. The various stakeholder groups reacted as expected; the highest income farmers regarded high compensatory measures as less important than low and mid-income farmers, while the landless marginalised group considered i) greater park access and ii) an income generation program as very important. The challenge for a pro-poor conservation policy is to integrate the needs of poor people into efforts to conserve an international public good, in this case rhinos. It is vital to ensure that poor farming and non-farming households are compensated for the costs they incur in supplying this unique good.
Keywords: Protected areas,biodiversity conservation,anti-poaching,stakeholder analysis,eco-tourism
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