Rainforest Trust projects thrive thanks to the important conservation work of people on the ground. Our Voices from the Rainforest series brings you news from our projects in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific — from the perspectives of those working in and for the rainforests.
Protecting the Sanctuary He Calls Home
Hiralal Sardar was born in Paschim Kushaha, the Sunsari district of Nepal. For most of his life, he worked for local landowners as a farmhand. Although he has no formal education, his work experiences led him to understand the region and its people in a unique way. Hiralal’s history with the area inspired him to begin working with Rainforest Trust partner KTK-BELT on the Koshi Tappu Conservation Project.
Hiralal was asked to be a forest guardian for the Paschim Kusha Biodiversity Sanctuary, a 40-acre parcel adjacent to the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Sanctuary that Rainforest Trust helped to purchase in 2018. The two protected areas are composed of vital riparian habitat and home to 485 recorded bird species. They are widely considered to be two of the most important water bird reserves in South Asia.
Hiralal currently serves as the sole guardian of the sanctuary. The majority of his work is dedicated to protecting the sensitive bird habitat against human and livestock intrusion. His patrolling has led to a pronounced reduction in the cutting of Typha grass, a native plant beneficial to wildlife. Typha forms the architecture of “playgrounds” and resting sites for many endangered birds in Koshi Tappu. Hiralal’s patrolling has suspended other harmful anthropogenic activities in and around the Paschim Kusha Biodiversity Sanctuary such as waste proliferation and poaching.
Because of his ties to the region, Hiralal initially faced challenges informing the local communities about conservation. “When I first started and was wearing a KTK-BELT shirt, people didn’t listen to me because I am their neighbor. I used to have to scold people not to graze their animals in the sanctuary,” said Hiralal. “But now they are proud of how beautiful the sanctuary has become and how many birds are here now. Many people say it’s the one place where you can see many rare birds in just a 40-acre site.”
Although he has made great strides in protecting the reserve, Hiralal and other Koshi Tappu guardians are still trying to minimize threats. “The biggest problem is that we need to control grazing,” said Hiralal. “If we can create enclosures and round up the thousands of feral cattle in and around the reserve, Typha and other grasses will come back and the habitat can naturally revive. I’ve been amazed by how quickly it grows back.”
Hiralal plans to protect and improve the sanctuary for years to come. “I hope I can continue to be a guardian of Paschim Kusha until I am old and see this sanctuary become the best place for people to visit when they come to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.”
Header image: Sunset at the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by KTK-BELT.