From the centre to local governments, there are many wildlife crime and poaching control groups at work in Nepal. Some 8,000 Nepal Army soldiers are deployed to guard national parks across the country and the Nepal Police even has a separate branch for wildlife crime.
And yet Nepal is a flourishing hub for wildlife trade. Contraband from Africa and Asia are transported to China and beyond across the Himalaya. The country’s location is no help – it is situated between India, which is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world with a 1,300km open border, and China that is the world’s largest wildlife market.
According to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1972, no one is allowed to use, sell or distribute wildlife without permission in Nepal. But even before it was issued, the law stipulated that those in the possession of wildlife parts must get a permit within 35 days by disclosing their source.
But no such permit has ever been issued according to the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Forest and Soil Conservation. I reported the illegal wildlife parts in use in Kathmandu with evidence and lobbied for them to be brought under the purview of the law. But I was warned to keep quiet, with authorities even threatening to end my career. I chased them for two years but with no other progress and alternative, I went to court.
Being a wildlife specialist, legal matters are not my forte. I also realised just learning about ecology is not enough to save wildlife in Nepal. So, I joined Nepal Law Campus where I met advocate Padma Bahadur Shrestha, who specialises in environmental law.
He helped me prepare the writ and in May 2018 we went to the Supreme Court with our petition. The staff at the registration read the writ and laughed. The head of the branch said it was an important case but refused to register it. It got registered the second day because there was no basis not to, and the date for the hearing was fixed for the very next day.
The judge on the bench was Cholendra SJB Rana. I could hear advocates say, “Most of the wildlife parts are in the Rana family. How do you expect the judge to give a verdict?”
After reading the writ, judge Rana smiled and said, “Immediate order may be difficult to implement, so I have given a show cause order to the government with priority.”