Wildlife workers in Nepal face multiple challenges while on duty, including the risk of contracting Covid-19
Wildlife workers in Nepal face multiple challenges while on duty, including the risk of contracting Covid-19. Apart from their job in sanctuaries, a part of their work requires them to remain closely involved in communities living around sanctuaries to keep an eye on poachers. And, this is the reason they were put on the list of risk groups, requiring Covid-19 vaccines on priority.
Despite the classification, the country’s many wildlife workers haven’t yet received vaccines.
A significant number of park officials are not vaccinated. The Chitwan National Park, one of the twelve national parks of Nepal and home to many rare mammals, has only half of its total 376 workers vaccinated, according to a report in The Kathmandu Post. They couldn’t attend vaccination drives for various reasons.
“Some staff members were deep inside the jungle, where the phone network is unreachable when the vaccine was being administered,” Ana Nath Baral, the chief conservation officer of the park, was quoted as saying by The Kathmandu Post.
“It was the time when there were frequent rhino deaths inside the park and poachers were active. So they were busy dealing with such incidents and other conservation activities,” he added. Around 700 one-horned rhinos reside in the park.
Baral is one among those who are yet to receive their first dose of vaccines. Experts say that their frequent interactions with local communities and animals put both of them at increased risk. Also, there are enough reports of zoo animals, too, getting infected with the virus.
In its total of 20 protected areas-- 12 national parks, six conservation areas, one hunting reserve, and a wildlife reserve, Nepal has over 10,000 people working in the wildlife conservation area.
“The kind of work they do on a daily basis requires them to be safe from Covid-19,” Haribhadra Acharya, the spokesperson for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, said.
He further added their job required arresting people involved in prohibited activities inside the park, patrolling the park area, and engaging with local communities.
Acknowledging the problem, the country’s Ministry for Forests and Environment said, “If wild animals are our valuable assets, then we must protect those protecting these national treasures.”
Buddi Sagar Paudel, the ministry spokesperson, assured that they would take up the matter with the health ministry.