Conservation efforts, the world over, are dependent on the drive, support and capacity of local people. And empowering locals is critical to ongoing species protection.
In 2017 WWF and Intrepid Travel started an ambitious project, in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) through their Business Partnerships Platform. Working directly with local communities, the projects aim is to establish sustainable community-based eco-tourism in the Madi Valley of Nepal, located in the southern ‘buffer zone’ of Chitwan National Park.
Chitwan National Park is a World Heritage Site, home to wild rhinos, tigers and elephants and is the second most popular tourist destination in Nepal. This project is an exciting commercial opportunity to diversify the Nepali tourism product beyond mountain-trekking. Offering unique community-focused experiences can reach a broad customer base while relieving some current social and environmental pressures by using improved practices.
One of the main project outcomes is to generate revenue from tourism for members of the Madi Community that from underrepresented groups, especially women.
This project will also help in the reduction of human-wildlife conflict.This will be achieved through; training local youth on emergency management of wild animal and rapid response team mobilization, supporting human wildlife conflict mitigation measures (one wildlife watch tower, and physical barriers-electric fencing, and establishing endowment fund for human-wildlife conflict victims for income generation opportunities.
With the support of the Intrepid Foundation, WWF has worked in Langtang National Park to support rebuilding tourism infrastructure to safer, greener standards. We have explored new sustainable trekking routes and helped locals to diversify their eco-tourism businesses. WWF’s experience around the world has shown that this will bring long-term benefits to the Langtang communities and so minimise pressures on critical habitats and species.
WWF's focus has expanded since the post-earthquake collapse of the tourism industry, thanks to the support of Intrepid Travel and the Intrepid Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that allows travellers to give back to the communities they visit.
The bottom line
Langtang National Park is home to the musk deer, red panda, snow leopard, common leopard, Himalayan tahr and many other distinctive fauna and flora species. As the nearest Himalayan park from the capital city Kathmandu, it’s the third most popular trekking destination among Nepal's mountain protected areas.
The 2015 earthquake devastated much of the park, as well as its eco-tourism infrastructure. With Intrepid's help, WWF has been able to step up its activities to help the park and its people recover. After carrying out environmental assessments and inspecting damage to visitor infrastructure, we’re now working to rebuild the park for a sustainable future.
By helping to restore the region's economy, build livelihoods and disaster resilient communities, WWF and Intrepid Travel will empower locals to manage their land, forest and water resources well into the future.