Harnessing fauna

Harnessing fauna india may have dragged its feet on the subject for decades, but Nepal has gone ahead and done it: made wildlife farming legal. Licence can now be procured in the country for farming, breeding and research of high-value wildlife species under the government’s new Wildlife Farming, Reproduction and Research Policy 2060 (2003). Notwithstanding criticism from some quarters, the move has been largely welcomed both within the country and outside it.

Under the new policy, the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation (dnpwc), which comes under Nepal’s Union ministry of forests and soil conservation, is providing seed animals for farming and breeding. The permission fee ranges from 5,000 to 40,000 Nepali rupees (us $69-$555) per animal depending on the species (see table at the bottom: Price list).

The government has already granted licences for farming and research of rhesus monkeys, snakes and vultures (see: "Animal farm", Down To Earth, June 30, 2004). The protected species that are permitted for farming under the new policy include the gharial crocodile and Nepal’s national bird Impeyan pheasant. Among the other species on the list for which wildlife farming permits can be obtained are the barking deer and all bird species.

The policy has been formulated keeping the directives of the country’s tenth five-year plan (2001-2006) in mind, which asks for improvement in the livelihoods of women, the poor and disadvantaged groups by conserving biological diversity through farming of high-value wildlife. The plan also envisages promoting the involvement of individuals, groups, non-governmental organisations and institutions in wildlife farming, reproduction and research.

While the government has already begun giving licences on the basis of the policy, amendments are also being drafted to the existing wildlife protection laws of Nepal. “Based on that plan, the Union ministry of forests and soil conservation is drafting the amendments,” reveals Surya Bahadur Pandey, assistant management officer, dnpwc.

But some confusion has cropped up among the officials about the policy. “The purpose of the policy is only to farm, breed and conduct research. Commercial use of wildlife has not been allowed,” notes Pandey, who looks after the implementation of the policy. In the same breath, he adds: “We are in favour of the sustainable use of wildlife, apart from endangered species.”

Sources in the country’s ministry disclose that even while the ministry was in the process of finalising the amendment bill allowing commercial use of certain wildlife animals, the government suddenly announced the policy. Some of its aspects have come in for criticism. It is alleged that the rhesus macaques will be used to conduct biomedical research funded by us-based sponsors, who find it hard to avoid the animal rights bodies’ vigil and strict laws governing research in their own country.

Sources told Down To Earth that there was indeed some pressure from the Western scientific community. Pandey concurs: “The scientific community was pushing the government to announce the policy. Otherwise it could have been unveiled along with the amendment bill, which also allows commercial use of certain species of wild animals.”

But Mukesh K Chalise of the International Primatology Society, a research body, is optimistic: “The farming policy will ultimately help conservation.” Randall Kyes, head of International Programs in the Regional Primate Research Center at the University of Washington, who is planning to collaborate with Nepali experts in research on monkeys, reportedly said: “This is a good initiative for biomedical research, and any genetic discoveries or findings can be claimed by Nepal.”

Pandey observes: “We are still working on the proper legal framework. The dnpwc will monitor the farmers and animals every six months.” The policy, which aims to promote private sector participation, has predetermined criteria for basic infrastructure, management and expertise that the applicants for licences must satisfy before obtaining clearance. Pandey says: “We will change the law for the commercial use of some wild animals for the benefit of the poor. This policy is just the beginning.”

Price list
Animals that figure in Nepal’s new policy
Protected animals One-time
(in US $)
Gharial crocodile (Gavialis gangeticus) 548
Black buck (Antilope cervicapra) 343
Impeyan pheasant (Lophophorus impejenus) 68
Crimson-horned pheasant (Tragopan satyra) 68
Cheer pheasant (Catreus wallichii) 68

Common animals

Barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) 205
Spotted deer (Axix axix) 205
Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) 274
Rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) 343
Hog deer (Axis porcinus) 205
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) 137
All kinds of snakes 68
All other kinds of birds 68

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