ZSL welcomes conservation heroes from the frontline of the fight against the illegal wildlife trade

by ZSL on

Tek Raj Bhatt, Senior Programme Officer at ZSL Nepal, who works on a range of community-based conservation projects across Nepal, introduces community conservation leader and good friend of ZSL, DB Chaudhary.

On 10th October, ZSL will welcome conservation heroes, including our old friend DB Chaudhary, to the Community Voices event for delegates to an international Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference. Here at ZSL-Nepal, DB’s enthusiasm and commitment have shaped our work to engage communities in tackling wildlife poaching in and around Chitwan National Park, a biodiversity hotspot and a World Heritage Site. For the last 20 years, DB has worked tirelessly, engaging more than 20,000 community members in wildlife conservation.

Portrait photo of DB Chaudhary
DB Chaudhary

Dhan Bahadur Chaudhary (popularly known as DB) grew up in a small village west of Narayani river at the edge of Chitwan National Park. Since his school days he worked as a nature guide in the Park for various lodges and hotels. Even during the Maoist insurgency of 1996-2006, a period when wildlife was most vulnerable, he supported the National Park authorities by patrolling Chitwan’s buffer zone and providing intelligence on poaching, despite receiving several threats from poachers. In 2003, he became a member of Nepal’s first Community Based Anti-Poaching Unit. He went on to serve as a vice-chairman of the Anti-Poaching Youth Awareness Campaign, an early community-based organisation. 

Perhaps the most dramatic incident of his many years of his engagement on anti-poaching in Chitwan National Park was the arrest of former high-ranking official for poaching. He remembers that residents of a buffer zone community surrounded the vehicle of the official, returning from the forest after killing a deer (which are protected, as prey for Chitwan’s tigers). DB himself was in the frontline, blocking the jeep’s way. Eventually the Park authorities arrived in support of the local communities, arresting three poachers with the dead muntjac deer. 

Since then, his work has continued to reduce poaching incidents, contributing to a fantastic tiger recovery in Nepal. He believes the role of community is important, whether for or against conservation, “As conservation is not possible without the support of community, poachers cannot kill wildlife without taking help of community members.” 

Putting this belief into practice, he is an active social mobiliser, emphasising the benefits of conservation for local communities, and creating awareness among youths on wildlife crime. He works tirelessly to bring any local residents engaged in poaching into conservation, currently supporting and training members of various Community Based Anti-Poaching Units around the National Park. He has also worked with the Park authorities in tackling the illegal wildlife trade, not least by direct participation as a community leader.

A one-horned rhino in a field in Chitwan
Chitwan’s one-horned rhinos are among the threatened species successfully protected by Community-Based Anti-Poaching Units.

DB’s most celebrated work as a community mobiliser began in 2006, when Hem Sagar Baral (today ZSL’s current Country Director for Nepal, but at the time CEO of BirdLife in Nepal) approached him to set up Nepal's first community-managed vulture restaurant near his home village by the edge of Narayani River. Vulture populations across India and Nepal were plummeting due to accidental poisoning from livestock carcasses contaminated by veterinary drugs.

The successful setup of Nepal’s pioneering community-managed vulture restaurant put DB into the well-deserved limelight as a community leader for conservation, later earning him prestigious awards from BirdLife, WWF and others. While Hem moved onto different organisations, DB continued to nurture the project activities that were started jointly. Twelve years on, the community-managed vulture restaurant is still running smoothly, and vulture numbers are on the up. 

DB in a field with several local youths
DB orienting local youths on importance of wildlife and role of Community Based Anti-Poaching Units in conservation

Today, DB is a passionate motivator, engaging his communities in ZSL projects in and around Chitwan National Park, beyond the Community Based Anti-Poaching Units. His support has helped ZSL to ensure that our Darwin-funded gharial and fisheries project provide much-needed livelihoods improvements for communities that are totally dependent on rivers. For example, community-managed fish ponds draw on the successful example of the community-managed vulture restaurant, while replicating the long-standing partnership of Hem and DB to deliver successful conservation outcomes.

ZSL is proud to be associated with DB—an inspiring wildlife enthusiast and an exceptional community conservation leader. With ZSL's invitation, DB will be traveling to London representing Community Voices from Nepal in tackling the illegal wildlife trade. This is DB's first Europe tour and we are happy to help him safely land on the European soil. Welcome to London DB!

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