The elephants, however, were not the only wildlife sightings that Chaudhary had. On 28 May, the wildlife guide came across a tiger 400m away in the outskirts of the village.
“I threw caution to the winds and followed the tiger from a distance, taking photographs. The tiger knew I was there, but left me alone — both of us were at peace with the world,” says Chaudhary, who had never before seen a big cat from up close despite being a wildlife tracker and guide.
Half a kilometre away from the Dalla Homestay village, the tiger stopped at a watering hole in the buffer zone of Bardia National Park. It drank deeply.
During the hot summers, the water sources within the Bardia National Park that fill the natural watering holes dry up, forcing many wild animals into rivers and ponds near towns and villages.
Nepal’s conservation success has also led to overcrowding of big mammals in protected areas and national parks, in turn resulting in scarcity of prey populations. This has compelled tigers and elephants to venture into human settlement.
There has been an increase in human-animal confrontation. This is more prevalent in Khata Wildlife Corridor (read the report above) compared to other parts of western Nepal.
Conservation models need to include strategies to reduce human-animal conflict and local governments should introduce alternative livelihood options for the communities living near the protected areas to reduce their dependence on the forest. Similarly, infrastructure, new and those being upgraded need to include wildlife passes to reduce road kill.
On the flipside, the proximity of endangered species to human settlements has made frequent sightings quite common, boosting local eco-tourism and providing indigenous communities engaged in homestay business with extra income.
This was possible with the combined conservation effort of communities, local governments and environmentalists, and there are lessons to be learned.
Says Salik Ram Chaudhary: “As in Bardia, we need to ramp up conservation efforts across Nepal so that we can use the lockdown to share space and live with Nepal’s rich biodiversity.”