Guardians of the Wild: Protecting Wildlife and Communities in Bardiya National Park

Campfires and kerosene paint the shadows of this place at night, old world protectors on a new age battlefield. On the fringes of Bardiya National Park, people share living space with wildlife in one of the planet’s last strongholds of bengal tigers, wild asiatic elephants and greater one-horned rhinos.

And while the world needs these charismatic animals to thrive, the people living here walk a delicate line between this life and the next in their presence.

The first time we met Hemanta Acharya his phone lit up with the news of a goat killed by a leopard, an almost daily occurrence where villages and jungle collide. But as our time with him and the team of volunteer anti-poaching rangers of Bardiya’s CBAPU extended, the news became more grim—a 25-year-old woman killed by a tiger while cutting grass, a man in the hospital after an elephant destroyed three nearby homes.

Hemanta himself lost a father to elephants, yet like many of the CBAPU members he dedicates his days to documenting, protecting and mitigating conflict between wildlife and people.

The privilege of viewing wildlife also comes with a cost. And for places like Bardiya, the ripple affect of ecotourism doesn’t always translate into change for communities bordering the park. The 3,000 volunteers protecting animals in the community forests surrounding the gates need laptops to process trail camera footage. They need small drones chase elephants away from crops and homes. They need tasers grafted into bamboo sticks to defend themselves without killing wildlife.

Right now, only between 8,000-12,000 foreign tourists visit these jungles near the Nepal’s border with India per year. But groups like Burhan Camp are working with the local community to try to bring tourism dollars from outsiders like us beyond the gates and into the hands of guides, farmers and other community members where a little bit of generosity goes a very long way towards keeping both wildlife and people alive.
By: Joe Sills

Man with lalteen at bardiya National park
elephant at bardiya National Park
hamant Acharya
birdwatching at bardiya National park
Pugmark of tiger
guide and guest at Bardiya National Park
man writing on notes at bardiya national park
Dark night at bardiya national park

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