Conservation efforts by Zoological Society of London has greatly helped repopulate the rivers in this mountain kingdom for the benefit of the local community.
One such person is Binita, who lives beside Chitwan National Park, on the Rapti River. Her community has relied on fish caught from the river for centuries, but as the human population has grown the pressure on the river from overfishing pollution and dams has seen the fish stocks plummet and pushed the local population of gharial, a narrow-snouted crocodile look-alike, to the brink of extinction.
As well as supporting the Gharial Breeding Centre inside the park, ZSL has to set up community banks to provide seed funds for local projects to reduce pressure on the struggling river system. 15 women from Binita’s village applied and pooled their funds to develop unused land into a series of fish ponds and stocking them with fish.
Once the fish reach adulthood, they are caught, distributed amongst participating families and sold to members of the community not taking part in the scheme, with the remainder sold at the local markets.
The fish from the ponds have provided Binita and her community a sustainable and reliable income – one that no longer relies on depleted natural resources.
They can now support their families and develop their communities, without the risk of animal attack or fines by illegally fishing in Chitwan’s rivers.The fish – and gharial – now have a chance to recover.
This is, happily, not the only region where the gharial is recovering, as OGN reported last year.