Otters of the world


This is not strictly to do with otters but it is about the fact that we seem to have learnt absolutely nothing about our impact on wildlife and ultimately ourselves through the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent article started “Nepal is pressing ahead with controversial plans to launch commercial farming of wild animals in the country, as major traditional Chinese medicine companies seek to invest

The article describes an interview with Hari Bhadra Acharya, a spokesperson at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in April 2021.  During the interview he received many calls from people asking about obtaining a licence to farm various species of wild animal including deer and snakes and these enquiries are increasing. 

Until recently the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973 meant that all wild animals (except fish and certain invertebrates) were protected.  In 2017 the government passed an amendment to the act to allow farming of wild animals for commercial purposes and in 2019 a list was published showing which animals could be farmed.  As yet otters are not included but the list includes 10 mammals, 12 birds and all reptiles except pythons.  The only hold-up at the moment is how people are to get the original “seed” animals from which to breed the captive populations.  Apparently this has been held up by Covid-19!!

For some time it was legal to captive breed certain animals for “conservation and research purposes” but this is a very loose term and many of the rhesus macaques bred in Nepal ended up in labs in the USA.  This was stopped in 2009 and many of the monkeys were released – happy ending?  No, the majority of them died as they did not know how to survive in the wild.

The new list of farmed wild animals seems to be based largely on financial gain and there was no consultancy.  Indeed, there are various basic errors:  two birds are listed separately but are actually the same species with different local names and tortoises are classed as amphibians, when they are in fact reptiles!  The list also includes certain species regarded as endangered or vulnerable such as the hog deer, swamp deer and musk deer, and the last species is particularly valuable for use in Chinese medicine and perfumery.

Sadly, some conservationists DON’T see a problem if it is “done properly and monitored effectively” – has mankind ever done such things properly and monitored them effectively!  They argue that the revenue raised could be used for conservation.  Even WWF Nepal are quoted as saying “It’s not an issue of for or against wildlife farming in general. We need to be wise and think about how economic benefits could be harnessed without undermining the values of wild conservation, and much also depends on the status of species we select for farming,”

This is the same argument used by the Dallas Safari Club for holding an auction to allow someone to shoot a rhino – the money raised will go back into rhino conservation!!!  The Dallas Safari Club are members of IUCN (the World Conservation Union). In order to establish a stable financial basis for its work, IUCN was involved in setting up the World Wildlife Fund in 1961 (now World Wide Fund for Nature) who would work on fundraising to cover part of the operational costs. CITES and TRAFFIC were also set up by IUCN.

IOSF is not a member of IUCN as we cannot belong to an organisation with members involved in trophy hunting and the like Dallas Safari Club and the Fur Institute of Canada.

Fortunately, there are still some voices within authorities who are totally against the whole issue of wildlife farming.  Hari Bhadra Acharya rightly points out that there is nothing to stop someone with a farm from killing more wild animals or buying more from poachers, as has been documented in China and Vietnam. And according to the new act “Any person, body, group or community may, subject to the prescribed standards, also carry out agro-forestry, herbs farming and wildlife farming,” so with over 20,000 community forest groups in Nepal how can this be monitored effectively?

There are lots of other issues which need to be answered such as: It has been shown that some people prefer body parts from wild animals than from farmed.  How much benefit will there actually be for communities?

There has been interest from Chinese companies in potential wildlife farming in Nepal for many years and some Chinese companies are looking to invest in this new source for medicinal parts.

So the question has to be asked why is Nepal considering it – and the simple answer is money.  The pandemic may have delayed it but Hari Bhadra Acharya believes that sooner or later it will happen.  HOW SAD