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Parks and Reserves

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Nepal Rhino

Nepal is a land of extreme contrasts in climate and geography. It has a unique topography ranging from lowlands with sub-tropical jungles to arctic conditions in the Himalayan highlands. Within a mere 150 kilometers the land rises from near sea level in the south to over 8000 meters in the North. This, together with the monsoon rainfall along the south facing slopes, has resulted in compacting virtually all climate zones found on the planet Earth. As a result, Nepal has been endowed with a great diversity of life-zones providing a home for a large variety of plants, birds and animals.

The Terai lowlands are defined by a belt of well-watered floodplains stretching from the Indian border northward to the first slopes of the Bhabhar and the Siwalik Range. This is the richest habitat in the land with tall grasslands interspersed with riverine and hardwood sal forest. Here one can see wildlife such as the swamp deer, musk deer, black buck, blue bull, the royal Bengal tiger, gharial and marsh mugger crocodile and the last of a breed of Asiatic wild buffalo. This area is also rich in birdlife with a variety of babbles and orioles, koels and drongos, peacocks and floricans, and a multitude of wintering wildfowl. There are five protected areas in Nepal - Koshi Tappu and Parsa in the east, Sukla Phanta and Dhorpatan for hunting in the west and Shivapuri in the mid-mountain region. The Churia, also known as the. siwalik, is the southern most range of the Himalaya. No where do they rise above 1,220 meters, This range is famous for fossil deposits of Pleistocene mammals, among them 10 species of elephants, 6 rhinoceros, hippopotamus, saber-toothed cats, various antelopes and primates such as the orang-utan, long extinct in the subcontinent, Situated north of the Churia are broad, low valleys of the inner Terai know as the Doons. These valleys are not unlike the outer plains with tall elephant grass, swamps and ox-bow lakes where the last of the one-horned rhinoceros survive. Royal Chitwan National Park in the Inner Terai of central Nepal is the first and best protected area in the kingdom, once one of the most famous big game hunting areas in Asia. Chitwan now offers protection to a large array of mammals such as the. one-horned rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, sloth bear and the gaur (wild bison) as well as more than 400 species of birds.

Higher in the north between 2000 and 3500 meters lies the Mahabharat Range with its oak crowned crests. The hills of this midland are covered by a moist temperate forest of deodar, oak, maple and birch in which are found deer, ghoral serow, leopard and monkey, The gorgeous multi-colored lmpeyan pheasant (Nepal's national bird) is also found here with other endangered birds like the koklas and Cheer Pheasants. Protected areas in this zone include Khapted National Park in the Far-West, Dhorpatan Hunting reserve, North-west of Pokhara and Shivapuri Wildlife Sanctuary near Kathmandu.

Higher still, nearer the snowline, are the alpine mountain flanks which are the haunt of snow leopard, which preys on blue sheep and the Himalayan tahr. Rarely seen are the wolf, black bears and lynx. The Sherpas, Manabga, and Dolpa-bas are some of those who farm and graze their livestock on the high mountain pastures. Langtang, Sagarmatha (Everest), Shey-Phoksundo and Rara National Parks are the protected high altitude areas of Nepal.

The Government of Nepal has set aside more than 13,000 sq. kms of protected areas that include as many bio-geographic regions as possible to assure conservation of the maximum numbers of wildlife species. These nature sanctuaries attract wildlife enthusiasts and tourists from all over the world and each park and reserve has its own attraction.

There are great numbers of National Parks in Nepal which are definitely worth a visit. The country has an abundance of wildlife which will appeal to all snow leopards, one horn rhinoceros, barking deer, bears and tigers. The best way to view animals is by visiting Nepal's National Parks where all kinds of animals are protected in their natural habitat.

 

National Parks:

1) Sagarmatha National Park:

Unique among natural heritage sites world-wide is the Sagarmatha National Park, which includes Mt. Everest (8,848 m) and other high peaks such as Lhotse Shar, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Pumori, Kangtega, Gyachung Kang, Thamserku and Kwangde. Located North-east of Kathmandu, Sagarmatha National Park is 1,148 sq km. in area and consists of the upper catchment areas of the Dudh Koshi, Bhote Koshi and the Imja Khola rivers. Much of the park lies above 3,000m. Sagarmatha is rugged, with deep gorges, glaciers and unnegotiable ice and rock faces. Locally known as the 'Khumbu', it is the home of the famous Sherpa people. The Sherpas make a living by farming barley and potatoes and graze their yaks in high altitude pastures. Young Sherpas have also made their name in mountaineering and the trekking industry has of late become the community's economic mainstay. In 1979 the park was declared a World Heritage Site.

Trees such as rhododendron, birch, blue pine, juniper and silver fir are found up to an altitude of 4,000 meters above which they give way to scrub and alpine plants. In late spring and summer, the hillsides around the villages of Namche Bazaar, Khumjung, Thyangboche and Thame are a riot of colours with several species of rhododendon in bloom. Wildlife most likely to be seen in Sagarmatha are the Himalaya tahr, ghoral, musk deer, pikka (mouse hare) weasel and occasionally jackal. Other rarely seen animals are Himalayan black bear, wolf, lynx and snow leopard. Birds commonly seen are Impeyan pheasant, blood pheasant, snow cock, snow pigeon, red billed and yellow billed chough, Himalayan griffin vulture and lammergeier.

2) Makalu Barun National Park:

The park and conservation area is situated in the Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu districts, bordered by the Arun River on the east, Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park on the west, the Nepal-Tibet border on the north and Saune Danda (ridge) to the south. The Park covers 2,330 sq. kms.

This is the only protected area in Nepal with designation of a Strict Nature Reserve. It has some of the richest and most unique pockets of plants and animals in Nepal, elsewhere lost to spreading human habitation. Stepping up the slopes are a series of vegetation zones starting with tropical sal forest below 1,000 m. elevation: subtropical schima-castanopsis forest at 1,000-2000 m. fir, birch, rhododendron forests in the sub-alpine(3,000-4,000 m); and herbs, grasses and rhododendron/juniper shrubs in the alpine pas trues (4,000-5,000 m). There are 47 varieties of orchids, 67 species of bamboos, 15 oaks including Arkhoulo, 86 species of fodder trees and 48 species of primrose. Over 400 species of birds have been sighted in the Makalu-Barun area, including two species never before seen in Nepal the spotted wrenbabbler and the olive ground warbler. Wildlife includes the endangered red panda, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard and possibly snow leopard, in addition to more substantial populations of ghoral, thar, wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan marmot and weasel, common langur monkey nd the serow. The Arun river system contains 84 varieties of fish.

3) Chitwan National Park:

Nepal's first and most famous national park is situated in the Chitwan Doon or the lowlands of the Inner Terai. Covering an area of 932 sq km. the park includes hilly areas of the Siwalik Range covered by deciduous sal forest. One fifth of the park is made up of the floodplains of the Narayani, Rapti, and the Reu Rivers and is covered by dense tall elephant grass interspersed with riverine forests of silk cotton (kapok), acacia and sisam trees. This ecologically diverse area is the last remaining home in Nepal for more than 300 of the endangered Asian one-horned rhinoceros and harbours one of the largest populations of the elusive and rare Bengal tiger. Besides rhino and tiger, Chitwan also supports a great variety of flora and fauna. There are four species of deer, including the spotted chittal, leopard, sloth bear, wild boar, rhesus monkey, grey langur monkey, wild dog, small wild cats, the white stockinged gaur (the world's largest wild cattle) and many other smaller animals. The swampy areas and numerous oxbow lakes of Chitwan provide a home for marsh crocodiles. In a stretch of the Narayani river is found one of the few remaining populations of the rare and endangered fish-only eating gharial, or Gangetic crocodile. Here also is found one of the world's four species of freshwater dolphins. For the ornithologist and the amateur bird-watcher the park offers excellent possibilities with more than 450 species recorded. Some of the resident specialities are several species of woodpeckers, hornbills, Bengal florican, and red-headed trogons. Winter birds such as waterfowl, Brahminy duck, pintails and bareheaded geese, amongst many other cold weather visitors are drawn by the sanctuary of the park's rivers. In the summer the forest is alive with nesting migrants such as the fabulous paradise flycatcher, the Indian pitta and parakeets.

4) Shey-Phoksundo National Park:

Shey Phoksundo is Nepal's largest national park and covers 3,555 sq. km. Sitting astride the Dolpa and Mugu districts of western Nepal, the park was established to protect the trans-Himalayan ecosystem found only in few areas of the Kingdom. The unique park includes the Kanjiroba Himal, with many peaks of over 6,000 meters, as well as the famous Shey Monastery, the Phoksundo Lake and the Langu Gorge.

The flora of the area include pine, walnut, willow, oak, poplar and cypress in the lower southern parts. In the higher reaches, pine, spruce, juniper and birch pre-dominate. The alpine areas are vegetated by barberries, wild rose and caragana. The and trans-Himalayan mountains and grassy alpine meadows to the north are almost devoid of trees but have caragana and dwarf juniper.

The wildlife of Shey Phoksundo include a good population of blue sheep and ghoral, musk deer, leopard, wild dog, wolf, marmot, weasel, mouse hare, rhesus and langur monkeys. The higher region is the exclusive hunting place for the elusive snow leopard. The adjoining Tibetan region is home to such rare animals as the great Tibetan sheep, Tibetan wild ass, Tibetan gazelle and antelope, and wild yak. Bird species of the park include the Impeyan and cheer Pheasant, chough, raven, Tibetan snow cock, Tibetan twit, brown dipper, Himalayan griffon and lammergeyer. The park is inhabited by people of Tibetan descent who follow the pre-Buddist Bon religion and some of the main villages are Ringmo, Pugmo, Salclang, Kugun, and Tatgaun. On the august full moon all Dolpa villagers converge on the Shey (Crystal) Mountain in a festival to walk around the holy peak three times in as many days.

5) Langtang National Park:

Langtang is one of the most unspoiled national parks of Nepal. Situated North of Kathmandu, it is the most easily accessible highland sanctuary from the capital. Langtang covers 1,710 sq. km. forming the upper catchment areas of two of Nepal's largest river systems - the Trishuli and Koshi. There is great latitudinal variation, starting at 1,500 m. and ascending to the top of Mt. Langtang Lirung at 7,234 m. As a result the park has immense ecological diversity. Some of the most attractive areas of the park include the Langtang Valley, the holy lakes at Gosainkunda, and the forested hillsides above the village of Helambu.

The deep gorges of Bhote Koshi and Langtang Khola are thickly forested with rhododendron, oak, maple and alder. The stretch of forest around Ghoda Tabela in the lower Langtang Valley and below Gosainkunda is inhabited by the red panda, a rare and threatened symbol of a healthy Himalayan ecosystem. Other animals, common to these forests are wild boar, Himalayan black bear, ghoral, grey langur monkey and leopard. The rare Himalayan hony guide has been sighted here and the park is also the home for Impeyan, Tragopan and kalij pheasants among others. Larch, a rare deciduous conifer, is also found in the forest of lower Langtang Valley. Further up, Himalayan tahr, musk deer and snow leopard can be found. The upper Langtang Valley is one of he few known breeding grounds of the ibils bills besides the Tibetan snow cock and snow partridge.

Like other Himalayan nature parks, Langtang has to be explored on foot. There are several possible trails to choose from depending on preference and time available. The langtang Valley is easily approached from Dhunche town and park office, which is a day's drive from Kathmandu. The upper reaches of Langtang can be reached in four days of easy walking; however, it is advisable to spend a few days around the forest at Ghoda Tabela to watch for the red panda. Once above Langtang village and the monastery at Kyangin, visitors can explore the high valley of Langshisa Yala peak and Tsero, Ri. These and other villages of upper Langtang are inhabited by people of Tibetan descent whereas the villagers of Dhunche, Bharkhu and Syabru further down are home to the Tamangs of Nepal's middle hills.

6) Shivapuri National Park:

Popular as trekking, hiking and recreation area, the Shivapuri National Park offers the nearest retreat away from the hubbub of city life. The park was established as a Watershed and Wildlife Reserve in 1976. the park was declared as national ark in 2003 for the protection of its unique natural adornments. Vegetation varieties in the park include its 129 species of mushrooms while animals include 19 speces of mammals include beer, leopard, deer, wild boar, wildcat and langur monkey. The park also boasts of 177 species of birds and 102 species of butterflies.

7) Khaptad National Park:

Khaptad, Nepal's newest park area is in the middle hills of the Far-West of the country. 225 square kms. Area of the park is situated where the districts of Bajhang, Bajura, Doti and Achham meet. Khaptad is plateau of grassland and forest cover at an elevation of about 3,000 meters. The mixed conifer and broad-leaf forests are an excellent example of the vegetation that once covered much of west Nepal's middle hills. The forest consists of a mixture of tall fir, yew, rhododendron, oak, dense strands of bamboo and smaller shrubs. This habitat provides good cover for bear, leopard, barking and musk deer, as well as birds like the Impeyan, koklas and kalij pheasants. This park is special because it represents one of the few remaining mid-mountain ecosystems in Nepal Himalaya. At the north-eastern corner of the park, a small serene lake and swampy area called Khapted Daha is religious site where Hindu pilgrims come to worship Shiva on the full moon of July-August each year. Here lived the ascetic, the Khaptad Baba, who was known and revered throughout Nepal. Khaptad National Park & Saipal Himal.

8) Rara National Park:

Situated about 370 km. north-west of Kathmandu, Rara is Nepal's smallest and most scenic national park covers 106 square km. Much of the park is at an altitude of about 3,000 meters forested by conifers. The park was established in 1976 and protects some of the most beautiful alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems of the Himalaya. The centrepiece is the pristine Lake Rara, also Known as Mahendra Tal, the biggest lake in Nepal. The lake is surrounded by richly forested hills, Chuchemara Danda at 4,087 meters is the best vantagepoint to get stunning views of the lake and the thickly forested hillsides and the snow-capped peaks around it. Other summits in the park area are Ruma kand (3,731 m.) and Malika Kand (3,444 m.), situated to the north of the lake.

Rara comes within the catchment area of the Karnali River, one of the three main river systems of Nepal. The habitat supports animals like the red panda, black bear, yellow-throated martin, ghoral, serow and musk deer. There have also been reported sightings of leopard and wolf. The lake attracts migrant wildfowl like teals, pochards and mallards. Resident birds include the Impeyan, kalij and blood pheasant as well as others like the chukkor partridge.

9) Bardia National Park:

The Bardia National Park is situated on the eastern banks of the Karnali River, about 400 kms. west of Kathmandu. The park is 968 sq kms. in area and extends from the Churia hills southward to the gentle slopes of the "Bhabhar'. The higher grounds of the Churia have dry deciduous forest of mostly hardwood sal. The porous slopes of the Bhabhar support large open grasslands known locally as 'Phantas'. These are some of the last remaining grasslands that once covered much of the Gangetic plains.

The western end of the Bardia is bounded by numerous water-ways of the Karnali which have created many large and small gravel islands. These islands and much of the lower ground area covered by a mosaic of grassland and riverine forest of acacia, sisam and the large buttressed silk cotton trees. In spring, the silk cotton blooms and the forest comes alive with scarlet flowers.

Bardia is the home of a wide variety of animals, many of which live in and around the Phantas. These open grasslands such as Baghora and Lamkoili are the best places to view animals. The most conspicuous of which is the spotted deer. Other ungulates include black buck, hog deer, samber deer, wild boar and barasingha or swamp deer. Two species of monkeys, the langur and the rhesus macaque are also present. The park is famous for its small herds of wild elephants which are rarely seen. The park also boasts a small population of the rare gharial, the marsh mugger crocodile and the Gangetic dolphin. The island of the Karnali River harbours the sub-continent's largest antelope species, the nilgai or blue bull. The Karnali and Babai rivers attract a large number of wintering waterfowl along with resident species such as herons, kingfishers and wall creepers. More than 350 bird species have been recorded in Bardia, truly a bird watcher's paradise.

 

Wildlife Reserves:

1) Shukla Phant Wildlife Reserve:

Situated in the southern part of Far-Western Nepal, the reserve falls mainly in the Kanchanpupr District. The reserves most outstanding feature is it's large population of swamp deer of which there is an estimated 2000 to 2500 members of the species in the area. Besides a variety of wildlife and birds, the reserve is also home to the rare Bengal florican. You may also spot Marsh muggers, Indian python, monitor lizards, cobras, rat snakes and kraits but these are seldom seen.

2) Koshi-Tappu Wildlife Reserve:

The Koshi Tappu is situated on the flood plains of the Sapta-Koshi in the Saptari and Sunsari districts of eastern Nepal. The reserves boundaries are defined by the river and the reserve area is subject to flood during the monsoon season. The river often changes it's course from one season to another. The reserve is mainly filled with grassland and scrub forest but also has some riverine forest. It serves as an important habitat for wildlife – most notably the wild buffalo. There are only about 100 buffalo living in the areas and this is purported to be the last surviving population of these creatures in the wild. The reserve is also home to a great many fish, birds and other wildlife.

3) Parsa Wildlife Reserve:

The park extends over parts of the Chitwan, Parsa, Bara and Makawanpur districts in the center of the country. It features sub-tropical-type forests and Churiya hills. The flora is varied and home to a good number of wild elephant, tiger, sloth bear, leopard, gaur, wild dog and blue bull, to name just a few. There are also a great number of birds and snakes, including the king cobra, which enjoy the hot tropical climate.




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