24 May 2018

Conservationist takes wildlife challenge to the country’s Supreme Court using evidence obtained during a Lancaster University research project

A Nepalese Conservationist has petitioned Nepal's Supreme Court over allegations of the government's failure to prosecute cases of illegal wildlife trade involving high-profile government officials.

Illegal wildlife trade - including the personal display of endangered tiger pelts - is against the law in Nepal, and a number of prosecutions have already taken place.

However, Kumar Paudel, a Nepalese conservationist and researcher who collaborates with Lancaster University’s Environment Centre and the Law School, has submitted a petition stating that the government is not doing enough.  His petition highlights a recent case involving Nepal's former Prime Minister, who displayed the pelt of a Bengal Tiger during a TV interview in his home.

The case also refers to other incidences where individuals and high-profile institutions, including a bank, have displayed illegal wildlife products.

Following a preliminary hearing this week, the Supreme Court has ordered the Nepalese Government to explain its inaction.  The court issued an order to consider the further hearing.

Kumar said his decision to bring the petition drew heavily upon research with Lancaster University.

During that project, researchers visited seven prisons across Nepal, interviewing more than 100 people arrested for participating in illegal wildlife trade. The research aims to understand trends in arrests, and the motives behind people’s participation in illegal trade.

It is now also being used to support this Supreme Court case, highlighting discrepancies in the government’s response to wildlife offences committed by people of different social status.

He said: “I feel it is a moral obligation to raise my voice by issuing this petition. I believe that, by turning a deaf ear, the system condones wildlife crime, indicates biased application of the law, and demonstrates a lack of unaccountability.”

Dr Jacob Phelps, Lecturer in Tropical Environmental Change and Policy at the Lancaster Environment Centre and Dr Gary Potter from Lancaster University Law School are co-researchers working with Mr Paudel to examine illegal wildlife trade in Nepal.

Jacob said: “Kumar’s petition to the Supreme Court is an inspiring example of how researchers can lever their science to create real-world impacts. I am excited to see more environmental scientists bringing their expertise into the courtroom.”