The conservation of Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, the only hunting reserve in the country, has become an uphill task due to institutionalised encroachment of the area, according to officials. The authorities concerned have so far failed to evict encroachers who have been steadily exploiting the reserve’s land area.
According to Surya Khadka, the assistant warden at the hunting reserve, around 240 hectares of land in the reserve have been intruded upon.
A report made public by the reserve a few weeks ago mentions 315 families of 55 different settlements have encroached on the reserve’s land.
The Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve sprawls over 1,325 sq km in the Dhaulagiri Himal range of Baglung, Myagdi and Rukum (East) districts. Established in 1983 and gazetted four years later, the reserve is home to 32 species of mammals and 130 bird species.
According to the reserve administration, as many as 77 hectares of land has been encroached upon in Baglung alone. Similarly, local residents have encroached more than 40 hectares of land in Myagdi and around 20 hectares in Rukum (East). Most of the land has been encroached at Chhentung, Syalpakhe and Nabi areas of Baglung district; Lulang and Gurjaghat of Myagdi district; and Ranma, Maikot, Hukam, Taksera and Kakri of Rukum (East) district.
Officials at the reserve say their effort to evict the encroachers has not been successful.
“It is not easy to get the reserve’s land back from the encroachers,” said Khadka. “The government, local leaders and the reserve must come together to find a solution to this issue.”
Although the reserve does not have a fresh encroachment to report, it has lost a large chunk of its land to encroachers who made the move during the decade-long Maoist insurgency from 1996 to 2006.
According to the reserve administration, land encroachment started back in 1990 and reached its climax during the decade-long armed insurgency.
“Fresh land encroachment has not been reported. The presence of the Nepal Army in the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve area for the past seven years has stopped local residents from encroaching the land,” said Khadka. “But we have not been able to reclaim the land that was encroached many years ago.”
Dev Kumar Nepali, the mayor of Dhorpatan Municipality, says it’s difficult to bring the encroached land back to the reserve’s fold since most encroachers have the support of local political parties who offer them protection.
However, the residents of Syalpakhe say they are only temporarily using the reserve’s land at the Bobang area to rear animals.
“The local residents are only using the land for the time being. They will evacuate the land if needed,” said Tej Bahadur BK, a resident of Syalpakhe in Baglung.
Dhorpatan is a hunting reserve. The government allows hunting enthusiasts to hunt specific species of animals in the reserve each year. The Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation has issued permits to hunt seven Himalayan blue sheep and five Himalayan tahrs through competitive bids this season. Himalaya Safari, Himalayan Wildlife, Tax and Trail and Travel Expedition have received ‘hunting booking license’ for seven hunters.