Battling Illegal Wildlife Trade in Nepal

In a world where wildlife is increasingly under threat, Nepal is going to great lengths to protect the wildlife within its borders, and was recently the recipient of a CITES commendation in recognition of its efforts in combating wildlife crime. However, poaching and illegal trade in wildlife remain a problem in this scenic mountainous country, and authorities and conservation groups are constantly trying new methods to deal with these issues, one of the latest being the use of trained sniffer dogs in Chitwan National Park, a project which has the enthusiastic support of Scottish tennis champion Andy Murray.

Currently ranked 6th in the ATP World Tour Finals, Murray is a global ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and will be actively involved in raising public awareness, as well as vital funds, for the sniffer dog project. In a statement released by WWF Nepal, Murray was quoted as saying that he has been following the WWF’s work on illegal wildlife trade for some time and has wanted to support the campaign as he believes it is important that illegal trade be prevented. As a dog owner who has observed how clever dogs can be and how they communicate with their handlers, he felt that the sniffer dog program was the right venture for him to support.

While often poachers are caught after the act, when it is too late to prevent the killing of animals, it would be preferable to track them down before they do any damage. To try and achieve this, the Belgian Shepherds will be trained to sniff out traps and weapons, as well as routes that poachers may be using through the vegetation in Chitwan National Park. They will work with their handlers from the time they are puppies, and remain with those handlers when they’re out in the field. In recognition of the role Andy Murray will be playing as WWF ambassador in the coming year, one of the dogs has been named Murray. Donations to this project can be made through the WWF Website.

Other prominent celebrities who support wildlife conservation in Nepal include Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Although Nepal has made much progress in wildlife conservation, the belief by some Asian communities that animal body parts have medicinal or mystical properties make them an attractive target by poachers, and being right on the doorstep of India and China makes Nepal a seemingly easy destination for poaching – a situation conservationists are determined to change.