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Fauna in Nepal


Mammals, Birds and Butterflies in Nepal

The distribution of mammals in Nepal is very diverse due to its geographical features and different climatic zones.

The Asiatic Elephant is found in great numbers in the Royal Bardia National Park in the lowlands of western Nepal. This park is on a traditional elephant migratory route from the western Terai to Corbett National Park in India. The one horned Rhinoceros can be found in Chitwan Jungle National Park and in some other Terai parks as reintroduced species. The last remaining wild buffalo are found in small herd in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in the eastern Terai. The Royal Bengal Tiger, common leopard and snow leopard are an endangered species, and they remain in small numbers as a result people often refer to them as elusive.

Other animals include Asiatic black bear, sloth bear, rhesus monkeys, langur, red panda, spotted deer, barking deer, Himalayan tahr, serow, the musk deer (in small numbers in the middle hills to upper valleys of the Himalaya), common Goral, blue sheep, Gaur, wild boar, and porcupine. In the Royal Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve in the south west corner of Nepal, there are herds of swamp deer, with the black buck found in the Bardia region. Near Lumbini the Blue Bull Antelope (Nilgai in Nepali) has made a comeback from 2-5 animals in the early 1990s to nearly 200. The wild dog, the golden jackal, the striped hyena and wolves are also found in Nepal.

Other smaller animals include martens, pika, giant red flying squirrel, common squirrel, fresh water otter, Himalayan marmot and weasel to mention a few.

Although the above listed animals are found in Nepal, some species are regional while others are wide spread throughout the country.

Most of the above animals can be seen in various national parks in Nepal. The most difficult to see are the common leopard, snow leopard, Royal Bengal tiger, jackal, striped hyena, and wolves altogether with the yeti. Sighting wildlife in Nepal is best in Chitwan Jungle National Park some four hour drive south of the capital Kathmandu. Chitwan is lush tropical evergreen jungle in the Narayani River flood plains that provide protected shelters for both herbivores and carnivores.

Birds in Nepal:

Nepal boasts 848 recorded species of birds. An ardent bird watcher can travel the length and breadth of Nepal doing little else but bird watching. Birding is possible everywhere in Nepal from the hot plains in the south, the Kathmandu Valley in the mid hills, to the mountainous regions of the north.

The Kathmandu Valley has four major bird watching areas, and one can start on the banks of the Bagmati and Manohra rivers. Birds sighted along these rivers are the Egrets, Herons, Kingfishers, Ibis bill, Wood Sandpipers and Plovers. The Chobar gorge is particularly recommended as an area for birds as its isolation from human habitation has encouraged their presence.

Pulchowki is another ideal site, with a Red-headed Trogan, a very rare bird sighted there in April 2000. (It was last seen in Nepal 44 years ago.) Pulchowki is 2760 meters and 18kms southeast of Kathmandu, and is reached via Godavari and the Botanical gardens. Walking can start from behind the gardens, with a combination of trails and roads. The hillside is covered with forest featuring outstanding flora as well as diverse birds. About 90 species have been recorded in this area including the endemic Spring Babbler, as well as the Cutia, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Rufous Bellied Pied Woodpeckers and the Black-throated Parrot bill to name a few.

Two other areas of the valley are The Shivapuri Watershed and Wildlife Reserve, 12kms north of the city, and Nagarjun in the northwest. Shivapuri can be reached two ways, either from Sundarijal or Budanilkaantha. The reserve is managed by the Nepalese Army and it costs NRs. 250 for foreigners to enter. (NRs. 1,000 is charged for a movie or video camera). Some of the birds in this area are the Laughing Thrush, Crested Serpent Eagle, Little Pied Fly Catchers, Ruby - Throats, and Babblers. At Nagarjun at 2105 meters pheasants, magpies, sunbirds and ruby-throats are found.

Koshi Barrage and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve are in the eastern Terai of Nepal. The Koshi is great for waterfowl and waders, with about 26 varieties of ducks alone. Here the method of viewing is by boat, gliding through the waters in the stillness of the early morning and evenings. Over 450 species have been sighted here, including Black Ibis, Honey Kites, Ospreys, Black Headed Orioles, Peregrine Falcon, Partridges, and storks.

Chitwan is in the lowlands of Nepal, known as the Terai. The Royal Chitwan National Park is the best known site in Nepal for bird-watching. Bird watching needs to be done from the safety of a chair, the back of an elephant or in a jeep. Pokhara, 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu, the forests around the banks of Phewa Lake and Begnas Lake are ideal for bird watching, particularly in the less inhabited areas. In winter around Phewa Lake, you find egrets, herons, pipits, buntings plus gulls, terns, ducks and falcons. Begnas Lake has slopes and wet fields surrounding it, where ducks, pheasant-tailed Jacana, Happie Grey Bellied Tesias, and bulbuls are seen.

Royal Bardia National Park is covered with Sal forest, riverine forest and grassland much like Chitwan, but Bardia has the mighty Karnali River flowing by the park. Boating on the Karnali is a great way to see the birds, and one would see the Ruddy Shell duck, Oriental Pied Hornbills, Night Herons and Purple Herons, plus many more. In the higher areas of Nepal, the trek routes are good for bird watching, including the Jomson Trek and the Annapurna. Recently a rare bird known as Jerdon's Baza was sighted in Nepal.

Over the past few years a conservation group has worked specifically in the Lumbini area to conserve the Sarus Crane. Wetlands have been constructed in the Lumbini area to provide refuge for Sarus Cranes and other wetland birds.

Four hundred thousand saplings have been planted in the area of the crane sanctuary. The cranes are among the world’s most endangered birds, the world’s tallest flying bird; it is thought there are fewer than 500 remaining in Nepal. In dedication to the Sarus Crane, a Thangka has been made called Wheel of Crane Conservation for use as educational material, with the art based on the Buddhist wheel of life philosophy.

Butterflies in Nepal:

Butterflies have been studied in Nepal for over 150 years, with much of the original study and collection done by the British, including one or two British Residents (i.e. British Consuls of the day). After 1950 the Japanese became involved in collection through scientific expeditions, and this resulted later in the establishment by Tribhuvan University of the Natural History Museum at Swoyambhu in 1974.

The record books state that Nepal has 11 out of the 15 families of butterflies in the world, or over 500 species, and still today in the 21st century new species keep turning up. It is said that you never really know with Nepal's butterflies; they just may turn up unexpectedly. From 1974 to 1981, only a period of seven years, a further 24 specimens or sub-families were added to the records, and in 1981 two alone, the BLUE DUCHESS and the SIKKIM HAIRSTREAK were discovered, with this last one known only from a single specimen from Sikkim, with this one female found in 1981 in Godavari, Kathmandu Valley; and later in 1986 an entirely new race of the CHINESE HAIRSTREAK turned up. The original collectors were not allowed outside the Kathmandu Valley, so much of their research documented only the valley. Only after 1950 when Nepal opened up to expeditions and limited tourism, did the butterfly collectors venture outside the valley.

Nepal is divided into 5 regions based on altitude, and the seasons are specified as spring, pre-monsoon, summer-monsoon, post-monsoon, autumn and winter.

Within the Kathmandu Valley, the climate which is quite mild with day temperatures reaching 18ºC in mid-winter, there are butterflies all the year round. The best seasons for butterfly watching are late March-April, mid May-mid June, late August-September. There are forested areas in the valley which are still remarkable places for butterflies, and they include open country near Chobar and there is very little activity except for the very common Oriental Species, with the distribution of butterflies in Nepal being quite specific with about 10% of the butterflies being Palaearctic species above 3,000 meters, and about 90% Oriental species Swoyambhu; the base of the hills and forest streams at Godavari, Nagarjun, Budhanilkantha and Sundarijal; the forested hilltops of Pulchowki, Jamachowk and Shivapuri, and the open scrubby bush areas of Nagarkot, Suryavinyak and Chandragiri.

There are about 20 Kathmandu Valley species on the endangered or vulnerable list. Outside the valley in the areas of the National Parks scattered throughout the country, the butterflies too are in profusion, and in undisturbed areas away from settlements are the ideal places to sit and watch.



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