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How owls have stormed Media in Nepal !

Ramesh Pokhrel

Nepal has a long history of ornithological expedition and research which include owl species too. However, beside the information on occurrence locations of various owl species nothing else was known about them. Few media had featured owls as their subject prior to 2008. Since ‘Friends of Nature’, an NGO working on wildlife research and conservation, initiated their research and conservation in 2008 there has been a visible surge in how the media has featured owls in Nepal.

The year 2008 is a milestone for owl conservation in Nepal, when a small team conducted its first school based conservation camp in central Nepal. Given the limited budget and resources the effort has the concern and interest it has been able to generate is highly commendable.

A closer look at how the online media has covered owl related news in Nepal presents a very intriguing picture. A google search using the words ‘Owls’ and ‘Nepal’ between 2000-2008 (8 years) yielded 7850 results compared to 3380000 results between 2008-2020 (12 years). The annual average news yielded before the conservation program was 981 and after the program was 281667. The change in percentage is an astounding 28605% which is solely due to the conservation effort by Friends of Nature.

Till date, there are not any organization in Nepal that targeted owls as their focus species for research and conservation. Similar search for vulture and tiger related news and articles for the same time period showed an increase rate of 1631% and 17817% respectively. Considering the little financial support owl conservation get in comparison to vultures and tiger, this figure is highly encouraging.

Similarly the coverage of ‘owl conservation’ issues in the same period in the online media increased by 1099% while other species conservation issues like vulture, tiger and snow leopard showed an increase of 801%, 1140% and 1291% respectively.

We spoke with the pioneer of owl research and conservation in Nepal Raju Acharya on how was this possible. He told us that since 2012, only around 4200 sterling pound per annum have been secured for owl research and conservation efforts in the country.

He further added “This is negligible considering the amount of conservation funding to tiger and vultures bring in however our volunteers have worked incredibly hard to make owl conservation a household issue in Nepal within a decade. Medias have also tucked in by covering these issues. General people have also joined the cause by sharing their photos and owl related news in their personal social media profiles. This is a result of our combined effort”.

Similar search about ‘owl hunting and ‘illegal trade’ related cases reveals an increase of 2000% and 850% respectively. To address our query that the figures show an increasing trend of owl hunting and illegal trade, Raju Acharya said “These figures do give an indication of increasing trend of crimes related to owls but it is not direct like this. Previously the incident of people carrying owls in buses and public transport was common and nobody cared. Incidents of raising these creatures in captivity were also common which has reduced significantly.

The tendency to close eyes to the ongoing trade by most stakeholders including the enforcement agencies like Forest Offices was common previously. The figures above only show that general people and enforcement agencies tackle the owl hunting and trade issues more seriously these days leading to increased cases of seizures and social media.

General people, students and other stakeholders have also contributed significantly to this. There has been a significant decrease in the export of owls to India from western Nepal. Careful examination would reveal this in details later”.

Acharya, who is also the country representative of World Owl Trust, UK, added “The preparation and recent endorsement of 10 years ‘Owl Conservation Action Plan for Nepal’ by the government of Nepal infer that more effort is required for owl conservation.

A combined effort from a broad range of stakeholders i.e. policy maker, enforcement agencies, anti-poaching unit and other public, would be required to bring the hunting and illegal trade of owls down by 50% within the action plan implementation period (2020-2029)”. He further added “The conservation achievement for owls in Nepal have also been lauded globally”.

Searched Key Word Duration

(2000 to 2008)


(2008 to 2020)

  Total Search Annual Average Total Search Annual Average Change in percentage
Owl /Hunting/Nepal 2360 295 74500 6208 2005
Owl /Trade/Poaching/Nepal 878 110 12600 1050 857
Owl /Rescue/Nepal 1870 234 61000 5083 2075
Owl /Conservation /Nepal 2980 373 53600 4467 1099
Raju Acharya/Nepal/Owl 78 10 5450 454 4558
Owl/ Nepal 7850 981 3380000 281667 28605
Nepal/ Owl/Catapult/Collection 430 54 9140 762 1317

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