On His Majesty’s Service (2018) By Hemanta R. Mishra With Jim Ottaway Jr. Vajra Books, Kathmandu, Nepal.

On His Majesty’s Service (2018) By Hemanta R. Mishra With Jim Ottaway Jr. Vajra Books, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Reviewed by: Kathleen Rowan
Nepal is a relatively small country (94 th in total area – about 150,000 sqkm) but it has an extraordinarily diverse fauna and flora (one article claims over one hundred different ecosystems). This is not that hard to imagine when one learns that terrain in Nepal ranges from a tropical climate at 60 meters above sea- level to a snow-covered 8,848 meters above sea-level! Nepal has also earned distinction for its establishment of protected areas and for the effective monitoring and management of those areas. More than 23% of Nepal has been declared protected areas encompassing twelve national parks, one wildlife reserve, one hunting reserve, and six conservation areas. Each national park is also surrounded by a buffer zone to facilitate human-wildlife coexistence where local communities are remarkably tolerant of wildlife encroachment and conflict.
This book, the autobiography of Hemanta R Mishra, provides an eye-witness account of how these protections came about and how wildlife protection and management continues to be a key part of the country’s politics, despite the change in political structure from a royal kingdom to a socialist republic. Dr. Mishra was intimately involved in the scoping out and creation of many of the national parks and then, as the first executive of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (currently known as the National Trust for Nature Conservation – NTNC). And eventually, Dr. Mishra’s ground-breaking work in Nepal was rewarded when he received the Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize in 1987 (referred to as the Nobel for conservation by President Reagan in 1983). The book contains many adventures involving many names well-known to any western conservationist of a particular generation but also many personal adventures and experiences.
It is an entertaining and informative read that helps one to understand how Nepal is now lucky enough to have a robust conservation program that is not only tolerated but supported by local communities. Dr. Mishra’s abilities to work with both local villagers and the heads of the World Wildlife Fund and the Smithsonian Institution were important factors in Nepal’s conservation success. It is not at all clear how Nepal’s conservation program will evolve from here but, at least, the country has a very solid foundation.