Environmental Conservation

Main Papers

Park–People Relations in Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal: A Socio-economic Analysis

Joel T. Heinena1

a1 Lecturer, School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1115, USA.

Park-people interactions in Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, located in the lowlands of Southeastern Nepal, were studied intensively over a two-years' period from 1986 to 1988, through a variety of economic and attitu-dinal surveys. The Reserve had been established for the conservation of wild Water Buffalo and migratory waterfowl, and protects some of the most important wetland habitat in Nepal; it is therefore vital for the conservation of biodiversity on a national and regional level. The results showed that people in the area are dependent on the Reserve for the collection of grasses etc. which they use as building materials, while the Reserve provides fish which are sold cheaply in local markets. Other products, such as fuel-wood, edible and medicinal plants, and seeds, are occasionally collected legally in the Reserve.

Despite the measurable benefits, attitudes about the Reserve are generally poor in the region, at least among local inhabitants who do not understand its main raisons d'être. The best predictors of attitudes were the caste or ethnic group and the literacy rate of the family of the respondent, and not the socio-economic standing of, or the direct cost to, the respondent due to crop damage by wildlife. These results suggest that religious inculcation, societal discrimination, and education, may all play a role in shaping attitudes and therefore influencing park-people relations. Short-term solutions to park-people conflicts should include more education and extension programmes on the part of the Reserve's management, and legal efforts to return at least some control to local villages.