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Regional cooperation in conservation: South Asia shows the way

Andrew Zakharenka's picture
Illegal trade in wildlife and conservation often were not considered high priority for countries of the South Asia Region. In the first ever attempt, the governments of Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan joined forces to strengthen regional cooperation for wildlife conservation. And it was a successful one.

The regional project assisted the governments in building and enhancing shared capacity and institutions to tackle illegal wildlife trade across their borders and invest in habitat and wildlife conservation of critically endangered species. It was clear from the onset that these issues would require both national leadership and regional coordination.
 
Launched in 2011, the project initially had a delayed start. Yet, by December 2016, when the project ended, it became clear that governments coordinated efforts successfully. The three countries participated in regular joint action planning and practice-sharing meetings, signed protocols for and cooperated in transboundary actions, as well as held consultations and public events at the local, national, and international levels.
 
The project supported conservation programs of dozens of endangered species, including crocodiles being released here into the wild. Sundarban area, 2014

The project helped to establish the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN), an inter-governmental mechanism charged with coordination and enforcement of wildlife laws. National institutions were established and equipped to deal with wildlife crime control. Protected areas were evaluated, management strengthened, and conservation infrastructure built boosting both wildlife populations and better opportunities for ecotourism. Villages and crops were protected from elephants and other wildlife. In Bangladesh, the project’s approach proved to be particularly successful, establishing a national wildlife training center, a state-of-the-art wildlife forensic laboratory, and the initiation of systematic management planning in 11 protected areas.
 

Villager and BFD guard demonstrate the electric fence powered by solar panels; the fence protects crops and lives from wild elephants.
But most importantly, working together, the countries benefitted from the mutual exchange of best practices and setting up transboundary cooperation mechanisms. They proved that it is easier and more cost-effective to build capacity and work together to solve common problems in this increasingly interconnected world. 
 
BFD law enforcement teams were assisted with modern GIS-based technologies to increase their patrolling effectiveness.

SAWEN countries are now poised to build on this success story with new initiatives. Bangladesh, for example, demonstrated its commitment to wildlife conservation by regularizing 61 positions in the Forest Department, and requested IDA resources for a follow-on project to scale up and strengthen forest and wildlife management in collaboration with communities.


Nathalie Weier Johnson, Senior Environmental Specialist with the World Bank also contributed to this blog.

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