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Guided by leadership, teamwork and vision, WWF Nepal forges ahead

In the fall of 2006, 24 people lost their lives in a helicopter crash as they were returning from the ceremony marking the government of Nepal's handover to local communities of management of the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area. Seven WWF staff from our offices in Nepal, the United Kingdom and the United States were on board, along with high-ranking government officials, representatives of other agencies, journalists and flight crew members.

During the difficult time following the tragedy, Anil Manandhar guided our efforts, and today he runs our Nepal office. Anil is leading an extraordinary team whose accomplishments continue in tribute to the spirit of those who perished.

Stopping poachers, saving rhinos. Our work in the Terai Arc - along the border of India and Nepal - goes on as we join with local people to restore forests that provide tigers, elephants and rhinos safe corridors between protected areas. But the rhino populations that WWF helped reestablish in Chitwan and Bardia national parks were recently hit by a wave of rampant poaching. We staunched that wave this year with Project Unicorn.

Because the sale of rhino horn is so lucrative, rhino poachers are highly organized and hard to stop. In the first months of 2007, Project Unicorn ran investigations that turned up both poachers and traders, enabling authorities to make arrests. We organized community groups to do sweeps through protected areas looking for poachers and their snares. And we mobilized youths in Eco Clubs to collect over 100,000 signatures on a petition voicing support for rhino conservation to the government.

Creating community benefits. This overwhelming community response is testimony to the fact that local people have a stake in rhino conservation because of the livelihoods they have built around park tourism. It also affirms the success of a policy WWF helped pass about 10 years ago: 50 percent of park revenue must go back to local communities for development activities.

This year WWF joined in celebrating Nepal's Wildlife Awareness Week. In Royal Chitwan National Park, we reconstructed two guardposts and did a new count of Chitwan's gaur (a large wild bison). The count was 296, a 50 percent increase over the last 10 years and a sign that our overall park management strategies are succeeding.

Moving forward, pressing on. WWF's plans for conservation in the Eastern Himalayas are as ambitious as ever. Proven success, government partnership and community participation ensure that our programs continue to forge ahead.

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