Rhinoceros, Grassland and Public Engagement

Rhinoceros, Grassland and Public Engagement

Project background

Species of focus: 



Bardia National Park, Chitwan National Park and Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. The main target of the project was Bardia National Park, which was intended to act as an example of what can be achieved at the other sites.

Summary description: 

The central aim of this Darwin Initiative funded project (from 2007-2010) was to re-establish effective capacity, systems and motivation for the conservation of the endangered one horned Asian rhinoceros and associated Terai grassland habitat in Nepal. The attention to the community was focused on engagement, education and awareness raising and dealing directly with conflict issues, particularly crop raiding by rhino and elephant. The project included the following components:

  1. Strengthening monitoring and surveillance of rhino and antipoaching by improving rhino census methods, patrol based systems, individual identification and science based antipoaching methods.
    Related to this, the project supported the restoration of community support/networks and some 100 community based anti poaching units (APU) were functioning by the end of the project. For example in Khata corridor forest, outside of Bardia National Park (and thus outside of the national army's jurisdiction), young people worked effectively to protect rhino with around 100 volunteers involved. Support to these young people included establishing a guard post and providing tracksuit uniforms and bicycles.
  2. Implementing more effective human wildlife conflict resolution approaches.
    This included the provision of fencing and seed funding for alternative non-palatable cash crops. The use of alternative non-palatable cash crops in highly raided farms, mainly aromatic plants such as mentha, camomile and lemon grass, was popularly uptaken by community members by the end of the project. For example, some 60 farmers in Bardia National Park had planted mentha and one large and one small mentha processing plant had been supported, with others proposed through community self funding. The impact of electric fencing was obvious with less nights spent guarding crops and fewer reports of rhino raids on land protected. Community maintenance networks were given the responsibility for fence maintenance.
  3. Improving public engagement and integration of local communities, politicians and other stakeholders in conservation efforts and facilitating improved governance of rhino conservation.
    This component of the project aspired to strengthen existing governance structures and introduce new structures such as a national coordination framework on rhino conservation and new rhino conservation strategies at the three target sites. Ultimately these efforts failed due to the weakness of the government in post conflict.
  4. Strengthening the metapopulation management approach and habitat management.
    There was no community aspect this this project component.

Land management type: 

State managed protected area

Product(s) in trade: 

Types of poachers: 

Individuals from outside

Details of 'other' poacher type: 

Poaching is typically associated with the army cadre.
Project implementation

Is the project implemented by an external party? 


Implementing organisation: 

The Zoological Society of London was the main leading organisation with support from host institutions including the National Trust for Nature Conservation and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Nepal.

Name of funding organisation(s): 

The Darwin Initiative with additional funds or in kind contributions from US Fish and Wildlife Service, UK Trust for Nature Conservation, WWF and Taiwan COA funds.

Was the project established specifically to engage communities in combatting IWT? 

Partly (one of a number of objectives)

Year the IWT project or component started 


Project status is currently: 

No longer operating
Community engagement

Approach taken to community engagement and its rationale: 

Human wildlife conflict addressed as a way to decrease incentive for revenge killing of wildlife


Not specified.


Not specified.

The community engagement project is: 

Stand alone initiative

What “rules of engagement” for working with communities does the case study address? 

Include local people in wildlife monitoring and enforcement networks
Acknowledge and address costs to communities from living alongside wildlife

What has been the impact on poaching/IWT? 

Poaching levels have decreased

What has been the impact on wildlife populations? 

Not known/not documented

Further detail about the impact on poaching: 

The rhino decline was halted through a cessation of poaching in the main project area of Bardia National Park and this has been sustained over two years (2008/09). As a result, a viable population of rhino was secured in Bardia National Park over the lifetime of the project. Rhino in Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve remained unviable and in Chitwan National Park rhino showed a decline in numbers during the project's lifetime.
Lessons learned about engaging communities

What worked about the community engagement approach and why? 

Direct involvement of project principles in-country and in the field was key to the progress made, and it could not have been achieved otherwise as there was low morale and motivation of local staff at the start of the project, and there was limited support that UK based partners could provide.

At the field level, significant changes in governance took place over the project period but these were difficult to measure and quantify. In Bardia National Park these amount to greater cooperation between the army, the Department for National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, the National Trust for Nature Conservation and the buffer zone communities. This is despite changing and largely ineffective governance from central government offices in Kathmandu and the continuing lack of government resources and/or engagement. Ironically, it is likely it is this lack of interference that led to greater harmony and local resolution in Bardia National Park - which was harder to achieve in Chitwan National Park and Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve where there are many external interests and land issues are highly politicised.

What did not work and why? 

Not specified.

Further comments or additional information about community engagement 

Lessons learnt include:

  1. It is possible to achieve outputs despite serious social and political constraints in a post conflict environment and with relatively dysfunctional organs of state relevant to the management of protected areas. Though, relatively functional park level management, NGO and community connections and sufficient acceptance from the authorities is necessary.
  2. Poor communications constrain any coordination of activities that arise from the UK. Most progress is made in-country during field missions.

Case study information is up to date as of: 

Bibliographic information

Main source(s) of information: 

Published documentation


Crises to Biological Management: Rhinoceros, Grassland and Public Engagement, Nepal


Kock R, Amin R, Jnawali J

Year of publication: 


Journal/Book/Series details: 

Darwin Initiative Final Report


Crises to Biological Management: Rhinoceros, Grassland and Public Engagement, Nepal


Kock R, Amin R, Jnawali J

Year of publication: 


Journal/Book/Series details: 

Darwin Initiative Application
Case study entry information

This case study entry compiled by: 

Francesca Booker

Date of case study entry: 

Friday, 16 September, 2016