Protect the Clouded Leopard, Nepal

Friends of Nature (FON) enhances socio-cultural and environmental conditions through applied research, advocacy and model project interventions

Extending from 1400-3500 meters, the Lower Annapurna Conservation Area provides refuge to over 30 species of mammal including the globally threatened clouded leopard. The area is inhabited by more than 800 households, the majority of whom depend heavily on this forest for harvesting timber, fuel-wood, medicinal plants, livestock herding, and illegal hunting for bush meat. This has led to forest degradation, human-wildlife conflicts, retaliatory killings and forest fires. The project will collaborate with local stakeholders of Madi Rural Municipality to diversify livelihood options (nature guiding, homestay management, clouded leopard envoys, identifying and upgrading eco-tourism sites, upgrading and restoring trekking trails), and reduce human-wildlife conflict (training, predator deterrent kits, fox lights) in order to address the threats to clouded leopard. Working with seven schools, two Conservation Area Management Committees and 4000 local people, EOCA funding will also be used to produce a clouded leopard illustrated booklet, carry out clouded leopard day celebration, capacity building of locals and habitat patrolling to remove snares.

The Update

This project aimed at providing alternative livelihood to local people, management of human-wildlife conflict, and to reduce threats to Clouded Leopard in Madi Rural Municipality, Kaski Nepal. It was completed in November 2022 and the following is taken from the detailed final report provided. Before the implementation of project activities, preliminary field visit, stakeholders’ interaction programs including meetings, workshops and school visit were conducted. Project implementation planning was carried out in prior consultation with all the stakeholders.

All the activities designed to sensitize the stakeholders on Clouded Leopard conservation were successfully completed in a participatory manner, which included production and distribution of conservation materials (300 posters and 200 booklets), conservation awareness camps (16 events), Clouded Leopard Day celebration, eco-trips, capacity building of two nature clubs, stakeholder interaction program (1 event) and advocating/ lobbying with the local government to declare Clouded Leopard as emblematic mammal of the rural municipality. In total, 4940 local people directly participated in activities to raise awareness and garner support for Clouded Leopard conservation, and over 20,000 more were indirectly sensitized via radio.

One of the booklets produced was the story of ‘The Friendly Clouded Leopard’, which can be seen here.  It was used to engage and inform children, through storytelling, about the project and the Clouded Leopard.

Activities aimed at reducing threats to Clouded Leopard and its habitat were proved to be beneficial to the stakeholders. The activities such as habitat patrolling (a three -day event, 2 eco-envoys were selected by locals, equipped, and responsible for monitoring Clouded Leopard habitat, removing snares, reporting illegal activities etc), forest fire fighting training (equipment and training on its use given to stakeholders to prevent fire spread from villages into the surrounding forest, impacting 700 households), fox lights to reduce predation on corrals, Clouded Leopard area delineation and declaration for Pyaun danda and Labi were completed in close monitoring of local government. Activities of this project together with other local stakeholders led to an estimated 40% decrease in threat to the Clouded Leopards during the lifetime of the project according to the final report from the project. Measurements using GIS before and after the project revealed that forest area increased by 2235 hectares in the Madi Rural Municipality. This was due to the collective efforts of local stakeholders, especially the local government, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, and this project’s sensitization work. With prior approval from European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), predator deterrent kit distribution activity was later changed to ‘COVID-19 relief support’ given to 700 households, which was highly helpful to local government in their effort to fight against the pandemic. Local stakeholders profoundly acknowledged EOCA’s support.

Local government totally collaborated with Friends of Nature (FON) Nepal in implementation of all the programs especially in enhancing the eco-tourism for income generation. The activities included; identifying new eco-tourism sites. Two eco-trails (Tangting-Krabu-Chomro-Tangting) and (Sikles-Hugu-Kaphuche) have been promoted with the help of journalist visit, documentary and brochure distribution, which is attracting local tourists and is expected to welcome foreign tourism and revenue in coming years. Homestay management training (given to established homestay providers and included natural and cultural heritage training, use of social media, Basic English, code of conduct in a conservation area) and nature guide training (19 local youth were trained) were successfully conducted, and the participants are now running their business in more organized and eco-friendly manner. 75% of the nature guides were involved in helping/guiding tourists at the end of the project. Of the local people trained in homesteads, nature guiding and eco envoys, there has been an estimated 20% increase in local people’s incomes due to the actions taken in this project. Two Clouded Leopard eco-envoys are regularly monitoring Clouded Leopard habitats, visiting the forest once a month and removed 35 snares from the forest during the project. Unfortunately, FON Nepal was unable to secure matching funds from local government and other national and international organizations, as a result trekking trail improvement couldn’t be carried out. However, FON Nepal is committed to seek funding for next phase of the project.

During the project implementation, Nepal faced 3 waves of COVID-19 pandemic which altered the projects timeline and overall project duration.