and Let Live: Wildlife Versus Humans in Beautiful Nepal
(Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
The loss of wildlife habitat
in the states of Nepal, India and Pakistan caused by widespread
and indiscriminate destruction of forests in the foothills
of the Himalayas and the Karakoram has led to an ecological
crisis, resulting in floods and landslides after the torrential
monsoons. When the forests recede the humans venture further
into the habitats of the wild animals to cut and gather
Take Chitwan, the jungle
in Nepal’s Terai for instance. Till 1961 organised
poachers wantonly decimated the wild Rhinoceros unicornis
in the jungle in order to sell the rhino-horn for a profit
due to its healing properties in traditional Chinese Medicine.
In February 1993 for instance, four rhinos were found
dead in the Chitwan Park and the poachers had removed
their hoofs and horns. In Nawalparasi there had been similar
cases of rhinos being shot for their horns and hoofs a
few weeks earlier.
To assist the helpless
wardens a battalion of 8oo Royal Gurkhas had been deployed.
According to the then director of the wildlife department
Tirtha Man Maskey, "There are 400 rhinos in Chitwan
with a reproduction rate of 2% according to research statistics."
A few days earlier 12 persons were arrested with 44 pieces
of rhino hoofs and two pieces of horns. And in the Shukla
Phanta three Rhino-cubs were found dead. The average life
span of a rhino is 60 years. To combat the increased poaching
a security committee involving the Chitwan chief district
officer, forest officer, security officer along with the
representatives of the various units had been formed.
The point was: will poaching be stopped in the long run
or only as long as the Royal Gurkhas prowl and patrol
the National Park? Moreover, the Gurkhas were deployed
to stop the Maoists insurgents in the past, and the poachers
faced hardly any resistance and started decimating the
wild animals. That also scared the tourists, and they
were advised from their respective foreign departments
to avoid Nepal.
There are less than 11,000
rhinoceroses left in the world, and four species are threatened
with extinction. The Taiwanese are known to be stockpiling
rhino horns as an investment. According to a World Wildlife
Fund(WWF)estimate already 10 tonnes are already stored
in Taiwan. In 1970 the price of a kilo African rhino horn
was $30 and today more than $2,000. The Asian rhino horn,
which is smaller than the African one, is worth $50,000
a kilo because the Taiwanese think it's more potent. Even
though commercial trade in rhino horn and its by-products
are prohibited under the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species, Zimbabwe and South Africa would
like to export them and use the money to support effective
anti-poaching programmes. It's a case of legal trade to
stop illegal poaching.
But poaching is also a
trade. The legal market might "jeopardise rhinos
elsewhere" according to Joanna Pitmann, who thinks
"Taiwanese traders see gold in stocks of rhino horn."
To think that 30 years ago there were 100,000 black rhinos
in southern Africa. Now there are only 3,500, the better
part of which are in Zimbabwe, which is notorious for
its high poaching-rate. According to Joanna Pitmann: "An
average of three rhinos are lost in Zimbabwe every week."
There seems to be a lucrative
market and desperate souls are out to smuggle as many
rhino horns and hoofs as possible. But aside from poaching
there are also other problems. Thanks to the electrification
of the many lodges along the Chitwan Park border the rhinos,
tigers, leopards, and other denizens of the Royal forest
nowadays have started getting used to techno-sound, hip-hop,
lambada, Bollywood melodies, and rock n' roll music blaring
for the delights of the jungle tourists. The noise pollution
created by the industry catering to tourism, in what should
be a tranquil and serene National Park, is a nuisance
indeed for the denizens of forest.
Rhinos: Once a royal hunting reserve, the lowland valley
of sal forest and riverine grassland has come to be known
as the Royal Chitwan National Park, and is Nepal's number
one Park. Take a trip down to Chitwan and you will get
what I mean.
The wildlife you will
get to see ranges from tigers, leopards, gaurs, sloth
bears, sambars, chitals, hog deer, barking deer to the
noted Gangetic dolphins which are seen cavorting in the
waters of the Narayani River. And if you have a crush
for ornithology, you will find exotic avi-fauna. Chitwan
without the great one-horned rhinoceros would be unimaginable,
since the area is internationally known as the wallowing
grounds of 300 to 350 rhinos, which incidentally is the
second largest population in the world.
Back in 1975 the rhino
population of Chitwan was between 200 to 250.If you are
planning to make a trip to Chitwan, I would advise you
to make it between January and May, because that's when
the rhinoceros concentration down there is the greatest.
The lush, green grass provides high quality grazing to
the rhinos. In May they begin to shun the tall grass species
which are unpalatable, and that is when they make for
the paddy fields of the local hamlets to pull nocturnal
raids much to the consternation of the local Tharu and
other Nepalese farmers. During the day you will find them
wading in the shallow rivers and feeding on the aquatic
Do the rhinos have a specific
breeding season? Actually there's no evidence. The habitat
in Chitwan is such that it provides a year-round food
supply, and the conditions of living are most favourable
to them. During the mating season, you are likely to hear
"pant squeaks" when a male is hot on the trail
of a female rhino. The females emit squeaks of low intensity
when the pursue the males. The highest frequency of such
squeaks is heard in the month of March. The males can
be seen making furrows on the earth or sand as the case
may be, by dragging their stubby hind legs along on the
toes, while urinating. This was a phenomenon which had
been baffling a biologist from Cambridge named Andrew
Laurie whom I met, and who was doing research on the ecology
of the Nepalese rhinos. He'd been recording the rhino
behaviour every month and felt that their urinating and
furrow-making during the monsoon may have been due to
the "bad conditions for track preservation"
He said, "The furrows are made by male rhinos after
unsuccessful attempts to mate cows or after encounters
The rhino has a long period
of pregnancy and the young ones take an equally long time
to mature, and all this overrules the advantage of a regular
breeding season. When a rhino cow has completed her period
of gestation, she heads for a secluded spot. The cow disappears
into the thick forest for several days before the birth.
Andrew Laurie had evidence for a possible oestrus periodicity
of between 34 and 44 days, which he obtained in the months
of June and July. Laurie said, "I saw a bull grazing
and moving with a cow and her two year old calf from the
14th to 16th June. On 15th June he mounted the cow and
remained mounted for one hour, stationary in the elephant
One whole hour: it was
Laurie went on to say,
"I didn't see the bull again with the cow and her
calf until the 19th of July, when he attacked her. It
was amazing. He succeeded in turning her right over on
her back by lifting from the side with his head between
her front legs. And all this while the calf grunted from
a distance in the tall grass."
He said the cow and the
bull evaded each other until the 27th of July when the
cow started to follow the male around sniffing at his
penis, urinating herself and uttering "squeak blows".
There is a possible peak
births during July and August, which would tie in with
a peak of mating activity in March and a 16 1/2 month
gestation period. But Andrew was of the opinion that mating
behaviour and births have been recorded throughout the
year, and it was hard to detect a peak. "I've christened
a healthy calf with the named Lickety Split," he
said with a chuckle because it seemed to dash about in
the Chitwan foliage. The movements of the rhinos tend
to be linked with food availability. They can be observed
during the March-April feeding on the short grasses in
the river banks in the blazing and forested plains located
below the foothills of the Himalayas.
When grasses are scarce,
they try aquatic plants, sedges and other coarse plants
rather reluctantly. And when the grasses are burnt by
the villagers of Chitwan, they immediately rush to these
places to eat the charred stalks, which they relish. They
return about two weeks to the same place to eat the new
shoots. It's quite intriguing to watch a rhino eat short
grass. It uses its lips to bite off or pull up the shoots.
The chewing is continual and often, the animal blinks
and then bites off new grass with its lips again. You
will discover that some roots and grass drop out by the
side of the rhino's mouth, but the animal normally has
a gargantuan appetite and eats even the dead, russet and
yellowed leaves on the ground.
And peaceful coexistence
is not exactly what the villagers in the vicinity of the
Royal Park believe in, at least as far as the rhinos are
concerned. The Nepalese villagers have been briefed about
the importance of the National Parks for the country,
but not the animals. From as early as April in Katar and
in the eastern parts of the Chitwan Park, the ungainly,
cool and determined rhinos begin visiting the farmlands
and feeding on the first rice and maize crops because
they are so supple and delicious to them. Some of the
rhinos tend to be neurotic and go about eating bananas,
weeds and ripe wheat. And some even indulge in coprophagy.
Keeping off the wildlife from the crops is indeed an eternal
problem that the Nepalese farmers in the Terai face.
Rhino greetings: How do
rhinos greet each other? They do it like the eskimos,
I mean the Inuits. A young rhino approaches another slowly
with its nose stretched forward. The noses come in contact
gently, and often a sparring bout ensues with one's horn
circling the other's snout. But unlike the Inuits, the
horns of the rhinos sometimes clash with a great noise.
A nuzzling of the side of one's face with the other's
mouth may take place, with a view to biting each other.
And sometimes, you may be able to watch a rhino down in
Chitwan bob its head up and down or even grazing and sweeping
its head speedily from side to side. However, the approaching
rhino, after touching the newcomer's nose or nuzzling
him will graze with him peacefully. The adult cows and
bulls behave differently. They avoid contacts. But when
they do come in contact, they hold their heads high and
snort again and again, and even bare their teeth.
And what do adult males
do when they come face to face with each other? They either
ignore each other or threaten each other. The meeting
is characterised by head-on approaches at times, followed
by loud shouts, squirts of urine and touching of horns,
low on the ground. And one of them may even turn and flee
honking. Sometimes, a fight may develop in which the tusks
are used a lot.
Andrew said, "During
a fight one November, one male lost half its horn and
both rhinos were deeply gashed. One of the animals returned
six miles to the south of the Rapti River the next night.
He walked very slowly, dragging a back leg and fed for
no less than two hours." Eating after a good fight
seems to do them good. You will find that the rhinos show
the most aggressive behaviour in their wallows, where
threats and fights are very common, especially during
the monsoon season. Despite the existence of many wallows
in Chitwan, you will find the rhinos concentrated at a
few wallows, and the wallows are changed very often. Most
interactions involve rhino cows and calves. The approach
of another rhino to the wallow might trigger off an interaction.
Attacks normally take
the form of a charge. I remember having read an exciting
description of a charging rhino by Peter Fleming in my
school days, in which he called the animal a "brute".
Well, if you had a huge rhinoceros charging at you, you
wouldn't be inclined to call it friendly or cute either
The best thing to do under
such conditions would be to clamber up a thick tree. But
the tourists in Chitwan are mostly on elephant-back and
hence such situations hardly arise. When a rhino charges,
the head is held low, mouth open, tusks bared and the
charge is accompanied by a loud roar. The rhinos stop
facing each other at a distance of one to two feet. The
charge is ritually repeated. Or one of the animals might
turn and disappear into the jungle: a loser. Each attack
results in the loser having to divert to another place
in the wallow, or even away from the wallow all together.
A banishment and the winner takes it all.
Approaching rhinos sometimes
turn and go on quite oblivious of the snorts. Others don't
even bother to take notice and walk right in. Even between
the same rhinos in similar situation, the results of encounters
are different on different occasions, and not stereotyped,
according to Laurie.
"One cow and calf"
he said," always occupied the same position in a
wallow no matter which rhinos were present. They never
took part in aggressive interaction rituals." But
the normally playful rhino-calves are involved in the
interactions." In one case," said Andrew, "a
two month old calf attacked an adult female after she
had chased off his mother. The cow in turned chased him
in the opposite direction, but the spirited calf charged
twice again. The cow stopped in front of him each time
with her tusks bared, roaring loudly. Eventually the calf's
grunts were answered by soft squeaks blown from his mother,
who had returned to fetch him."
dung-piles are used by all members of the rhino population.
And when a rhino comes across fresh dung, it serves as
a signal for him to defecate. Calves invariably defecate
after their mothers. And the dung-piles are developed
in areas frequented by rhinos especially along paths and
near wallows, and they are often 20 feet in diameter.
A most remarkable thing about rhinos is that they defecate
after an encounter with either another rhino, elephant
or humans. So if a rhino defecates after he or she sees
you don't feel insulted. It's the done thing in the world
of the rhinoceros. One would not like to pass judgement,
but the rhinos of Chitwan seem to have an entirely different
opinion about us humans.
Besides the defecation,
urination is also another important communication signal
for the rhinos. A rhino squirts urine during or after
encounters with fellow rhinos, elephants or humans, especially
while walking away. It also urinates while on leaving
a forest or grassland, a ditch, a field or road edge.
The rhinos, while urinating, are known to scrape and drag
their feet. The marking behaviour of the rhinos form a
sort of communication system between individuals. The
olfactory signals are recognised by other fellow rhinos.
The dung-heap for instance
stimulates the rhino to defecate, and the furrows created
by them after defecation and urination serve as visual
and scent marks. And what's remarkable is that the only
permanent association among the rhinos happens to be the
cow and her calves. The adult males are solitary, egoistic
and do not tolerate the presence of other rhinos. Physical
contact is very important in the cow-calf relationship,
and wallowing cows and calves often lie touching each
other. The small and chubby calves are very playful and
spend long periods rubbing their heads and flanks along
their mother's huge body.
Mating among the rhinos
takes place when the calf is about two years old. The
calf is driven away usually by the male at the time of
courtship. Both male and female follow each other's tracks
in Chitwan or for that matter in Kaziranga or elsewhere,
when they have lost contact and greet each other by touching
noses. The behaviour patterns change as the animal matures
from a baby to a calf, and from a sub-adult to a full
grown, breeding adult. Forty years go, most of the rhinos
in Chitwan lived in the ideal, wild environment with very
few people and extremely low amount of cultivation.
The only deadly enemies
were the stately princes and maharajas from Kathmandu
or their royal guests from Great Britain, who took pride
in wantonly shooting animals after driving them and trapping
them through the use of hundreds of villagers who encircled
them with endless white sheets of cloth, and the beating
of drums, tin-cans to create a great clamour and frightening
noise in the otherwise serene jungle in the Terai.
Royal Hunts: The royal
shikaris sat on perches called machans or on the backs
of tamed elephants and shot the animals, birds and reptiles.
Not because they had hunger as is in nature among the
denizens of the jungle, but because it was chic and was
supposed to be a sport ever since the gun was invented.
The idea was not to stalk an animal alone in the ratio
of one against one, with the undercover of the jungle
as part of the game, and to kill a wild animal to feed
the starving wife and children. Agriculture and transportation
problems were already solved and hunting and killing helpless
animals living in the jungles and forests came in vogue,
to be documented for posterity in front of 'fierce' animals,
not realising that the fiercest and wildest animal was
the human himself armed with a gun and lethal cartridges.
In one big game expedition
alone, the Nepalese Royalty Jung Bahadur Rana shot 21
elephants, 31 tigers, 7stags, 1 rhinoceros, 1 boa constrictor,
11 wild buffaloes, 10 boars, 1 crocodile, 4 bears, 20
deer, 6 pheasants and 3 leopards. Three successive generations
of British monarchs have done game-hunting in the Nepalese
Terai jungle. In 1886 when King Edward VII visited Nawalpur
he is said to have bagged 23 tigers, 1 leopard and 1 bear.
His son King George V shot "in one day in Chitwan"
10 tigers, 1 rhino and 1 bear. That was in 1911.
In 1921, the Duke of
Windsor, when he was the Prince of Wales, visited Bhikhana
in the Nawalpur district and took part in a shikar (hunt)and
was presented the following animals and birds by the Maharaja
Chandra Shumsher Rana as a present for the London Zoological
Gardens:1 baby elephant,2 rhinos,2 leopards,2 Himalayan
black bears,2 leopard cats,1 black leopard,1 tiger,1 Tibetan
fox,1 mountain fox,2 sambhurs,1 thar,1 unicorn sheep,3
musk deer,1 four-horned sheep,1 one-horned Tibetan shawl
goat,2 Tibetan mastiff puppies,1 monitor and 1 python.For
the ornithological collection there were: 4 Nepalese kalij,
1 white crested kalig-pheasant, 4 cheer-pheasants, 2 koklass-pheasants,
4 chukor-patridges, 4 swamp-patridges, 2 green-pigeons,
10 bronze-winged doves, 3 Great Indian Adjutants (L. dubius),
1 hawk, 1 peafowl (P. cristatus). That was just the list
of the animals presented by the Nepalese Maharaja.
In the course of the shikar,
the Prince of Wales shot 17 tigers, 10 rhinos, 2 leopards,
1 bear, 7 jungle-fowls, 2 partridges, 15 snipes, 1 peacock
and a hamadryas (Naja bungarus).
“How long did it
take to shoot all these animals?” you might ask.
Just eight days.
Today, the animals in
the jungles of Chitwan, as elsewhere in the world, have
to coexist with more people in the areas due to the increase
in human population and migration of people from the mountains
of Nepal under the resettlement programme of the Nepalese
government. Much of the mixed forest and grassland areas
which are good rhino habitat have been destroyed, giving
way to settlements and cultivated fields.
The Nepalese population
in 1974 was 12 million and in 1996 it is almost 18 million.
Now it is 27 million. The humans multiply despite the
so-called family-planning programmes that are publicised
in Radio Nepal and Nepal Television, in the Gorkhapatra
and The Rising Nepal. The movements of the rhinos and
other animals in their original home grounds of the Terai
(lowlands) have been restricted, so that they move after
dark: stealthily, warily, over areas which used to be
previously grassland and dense jungle. Nevertheless, there's
one thing that gladdens all conservationists and animal
lovers alike, is that the Nepalese rhinos are opportunists
and surprisingly adaptable, utilising a wide range of
With proper wildlife management,
the rhinos of Chitwan have increased in number. And rhinoceroses
have also been translocated from the Chitwan Valley to
the Royal Bardiya Wildlife Reserve. In order to reintroduce
a part of the endangered species in another part of the
country and to provide them with an alternate habitat,
and as an insurance against any unforseen catastrophe
that could infect the rhino population in any particular
area. The translocation might also help reduce the conflicts
between the need for protecting the endangered species(and
their gene pool)and the Nepalese villagers living in the
periphery of the Nationalal Parks.It took 16 hours to
bring the rhinos from Chitwan to Bardiya, and was a major
success. The WWF(USA) gave a helping hand to the Nepalese,
and tranquillising equipment and other support were provided
by the Smithsonian Institute.
But there's no need to
be complacent, since the rhinos may succumb if disease
broke out among them, for despite their thick armour,
they are just as fragile as humans inside, as far as immunity
is concerned. The most appropriate measure would be to
move the villages from the Park area and to compensate
the Nepalese villagers adequately through organisations
like the WWF, World Bank or whatever, so that the wildlife
may not have to encroach upon paddy fields at night. After
all it is the human beings who have been encroaching upon
the territory of the 'wild' animals, and not the other
way round. The rhinos move in relation to the food, and
when there is a stiff competition for food from wildlife,
domesticated animals and the local people, migration to
another territory is inevitable. The National Parks and
Wildlife Office and the KMTNC need to be more vigilant
in preventing human encroachment and poaching for furs
and aphrodisiacs at the cost of rare animals which are
a natural heritage, worth preserving.
On the one hand you have
the government and conservationists passing laws that
the Chitwan jungle be declared a National Park, so the
dollar-paying tourists can stay in so-called jungle-lodges
and go on photo-safaris on the backs of elephants through
the thick elephant grass and drink campari or bourbon-on-the-rocks.
And on the other hand, you have the farmers and villagers
of the Chitwan area, who are endangered by the wild animals
of the National Parks, because the wild animals (elephants,
rhinos, tigers, leopards) not only come at night looking
for fodder (rice, bananas, maize) and easy prey in the
form of domestic animals, but also enjoy the protection
of the National Park Rangers and, therefore, of the government.
The Chitwan Park covers
93,200 hectares and comprises also the flood plains of
the Rapti, Reu and Narayani Rivers. The confrontation
between the wildlife and humans in the jungle areas is
pre-programmed. In 1974 there were approximately 400 rhinoceros
and 70 tigers in Chitwan Park. According to a recent report
published in July 31, 2006 the population of the endangered
one-horned rhino in Chitwan has dropped from more than
500 six years ago to around 370. Three one-horned rhinos
were killed and one wounded by poachers in around Chitwan
National Park in south-western Nepal in the last week
of July 2006.
It can only be hoped that
the Nepal Terai Ecology Project's attempts to make solar-powered
electrical fences to keep the rhinoceros out of the farm
lands will be a help, though prowling big cats don't make
much of such man-made hinderances.
Wildlife versus Humans:
The KMTNC has in the past also initiated a grassland Ecology
and Human Use project in collaboration with the International
Institute of Environment and Development (USA). An American
biologist named John Lemkhul made an in-depth study of
the grassland ecosystem in Nepal, and the project proposed
to develop a management scheme for the thatch grass that
is vital for local human needs.
A Nepali grassland expert
Keshav Rajbhandari from the Department of Botany also
took part as a consultant. The study revealed that the
Chitwan Park was providing over 15 million rupees indirectly
to the village economy by permitting the local villagers
to cut grass in the park for two weeks every year. It
was found that 90,000 Nepalese enter the park during the
two week season. The cutters are legally allowed to cut
khar, kharai, bayo and smiti. The villagers walked up
to 3km to get to the park and up to four members of a
family helped to cut the grass. Even the Nepalese villagers
need an entry permit to cut grass.
But at night, when the
wild animals start plundering the crops, the farmers become
angry, and try to drive them away. Moreover, there have
been tragic episodes enough to fill volumes, whereby the
village children and women have been attacked by the wild
animals. The Rising Nepal and the Gorkhapatra, two Kathmandu-based
governmental English and Nepali dailies, bring out such
tragic news often enough. The humans living in the vicinity
of the National Parks, that goes not only for Chitwan
but also Langtang, Bardia, Rara, Sagarmatha (Everest)
National Parks, are tempted to go to the Parks with their
lush green grass and vegetation to gather firewood and
fodder for their domestic animals. This phenomenon is
also evident in the Darjeeling area, despite the forest-officers
on duty. Where there's poverty and an acute dearth of
firewood, there's always a way out of the desperate situation,
mostly through illegal means.
It's not uncommon to read
in the pages of The Rising Nepal about the call to "Propagate
the Nature Conservation Message" and about the heavy
responsibilities of the wardens in the preservation and
effective management of Nepal's national parks and wildlife
reserves. And in the same daily you have the story of
how wild elephants terrorised and destroyed some thatched
houses and saplings in Morang district, and how a village
assembly member named Khadga Bahadur Ale was crushed to
death while travelling from Letang to Kane through a forest.Or
the story of a four year old girl named Sita Devi Paudel
of a village in Dhikurpokhari who had been suffering from
diarrhoea and was carried away by a tiger around 8:30pm
and the next day only some part of the girl's body were
found in the nearby jungle.
Meanwhile, there was another
story about wild elephants on the rampage from the Sunsari
district, where they'd destroyed the thatched huts of
12 families in the Baraha Chetra villege. And in the hamlet
of Bishnu Paduka four cows and two domestic swines had
been killed and some goats injured by the wild elephants.
Another caption tells the story of how the man-eater leopard
which had attacked many children in the Kaski district
was killed by a single bullet fired by Ram Bahadur Tamang,
a resident of Chapakot village in Lalitpur district. The
leopard was 4.5 feet long, and had been terrorising the
children belonging to the hamlets of Hemaja, Dhita, Kaskikot,
Dhikurpokhari, Bhadauremagi and Sarankot.
The story reminded me
of the German TV film entitled "Danger in the Rapti"
by Max Rehbein, who's protagonist was Hemanta Mishra,
a Nepalese wildlife expert, who likes to hear Beatles
songs, in the role of a swashbuckling local Jungle Jim,
in which he shot a man-eater and smoked a cigarette with
the thankful village headman, for want of a peace-pipe.
Hemanta Mishra used to work in the wildlife office in
the early 1970s and ran the King Mahendra Trust for Nature
Conservation, and was awarded the J. Paul Getty Prize
for Natural Protection. He worked for the UNO later in
Another story deals with
a leopard which killed ten children, aged 3 to 13, in
the hamlets of Dhimal, Bhadaure, Tamagi and Sarankot.
A small 3 year old girl named Maya Adhikari of Malang
village in the Sarankot district was snatched away from
her mother as she was being washed in front of her house
at 7pm on a Sunday. No wonder that the local people living
in the vicinity of the National Parks feel insecure and
few villagers venture out of their homes after sunset.
The tigers turn into man-eaters only when then become
old, are injured or have lost their habitat. The question
is: Do the tigers encroach into the habitats of the Nepalese
villagers or is it the other way around? To date there
are 13 national protected areas comprising more than 9%
of the total land area in Nepal. According to the Save
the Tiger Fund report, the situation of the tiger in Chitwan
is optimistic and their numbers are increasing and their
habitats are improving. The number of elephants are also
on the rise and provided that poaching is curbed, the
numbers of rhinos will definitely increase in the future
The situation may take
a positive trend if the Nepalese farmers plant trees,
for only a fourth of the forest wealth of Nepal has remained
intact. The reason is that in the year 1967, the then
Nepalese government nationalised vast forest areas in
the country. And after that the Nepalese farmers didn't
feel obliged and responsible for the forests and started
cutting down trees without second thoughts. In order to
combat this, the Nepalese government introduced in 1979
the village-forest, the state-forest and the so-called
Old eco-melody & dwindling
habitats: "Nepal's wealth is the forest, said our
ancestors" runs an eco-melody over Radio Nepal, but
the vast tracts of forests have been encroached upon by
people looking for agricultural-land. With the Nepalese
forests dwindling, there is an increasing pressure in
the remaining forests which have been declared National
Parks, and are protected by the government.
There's no denying that
there's a struggle for habitats between the wildlife and
the humans in the vicinity of the National Parks of Nepal,
as elsewhere in the world. As long as the Nepalese government
and its apparatus, the wildlife offices, are active and
educate and warn the people and nab the poachers, there
might be hope for Nepal's wildlife. But can more wardens
and wildlife management help in a country where the population
has been steadily increasing, and where there's a dearth
of arable land, and thus the competition and habitat encroachment
on the part of the wildlife as well as humans in the limited
living space in Nepal?
The 104 year old misrule
in the past under the Rana heredity Prime Ministers, and
the defunct Panchayat government, and the later administrative
mistakes on the part of different governments, have led
to the reduction in the number of flora and fauna in Nepal,
not to speak of the forests which were prized for trees
like the karma for furniture, sal in the foothills of
the Churai chain for construction purposes. And sadly
enough, Nepal needs 7.5 million tons of newly planted
trees per annum if it is to avoid shortages.
At this stage I shall
have to tell the story of a big game hunter-turned-conservationist.
He came to Nepal in 1960,when there were a lot of tigers
and no tourists. The tigers were shot till they became
Today there are a little
more than 60 tigers at Chitwan Park. Some In the year
1999 the number of tourists who visited Nepal were registered
as 492,000 but due to the decade of armed conflict between
the government troops and the Maoists some 13,000 Nepalese,
mostly civilians, died. The tourists were advised not
to go to Nepal and the number of visitors sank to 277,000
in 2005. The tourists were obliged to pay a “tax”
to the Maoists.
Although over 15,000 tourists
come each year to the Terai, the tiger population has
nevertheless increased since then. The British banker
named Jim Edwards (Tiger Tops) is supposed to have brought
about this wonder. He organised jungle tours, wild water
trips and trekking in the Himalayas, complete with climbing
equipment: all for dollars naturally, because you cannot
live in the Himalayas without money, and he has a beautiful
residence in Kathmandu, a luxury apartment in London,
and a domicile in posh St. Moritz. And till 1960 he was
busy making money by organising big game Safaris. And
since a couple of decades it's been ecology and tourism.
Protected Wildlife: The
growth of the population in the Terai area and elsewhere
in the Middle mountains of Nepal, which shows an increment
of 2.6 per cent does and will exert a lasting pressure
upon the wildlife and vegetation of Nepal in the long
run. And these are the questions that will pose serious
problems for the country in the future. For with the construction
of new roads, establishment of new industries and lodges
and hotels for the foreign tourists, the country expects
an industrial and tourist-boom that might disturb the
ecological balance of this beautiful biotope that is Nepal,
with its diverse flora, fauna, landscapes and ethno-cultural
Meanwhile, the protected
wildlife of Nepal has been divided into 38 species falling
under the three classes of mammals, birds and reptiles.
The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act has put
26 species of mammals, 9 species of birds and three species
of reptiles in the wildlife protection list (1993). The
protected mammals are: the red monkey, hispid rabbit,
wolf, red panda, hyena, lynx, tiger, wild elephant, small
boar, stags, yak-nak, "napon", "salak",
"sonru", the Himlayan red bear, "lingsang",
"charibagh", leopard, the snow leopard, the
rhinoceros, the musk deer, gaurigai, wild buffalo, "chiru"
The birds in the protected list are: the stork, orane,
Lopophorus impejanus (Nepal's national bird), "garmujur",
the great pelican, the white stork, "chir",
the munal pheasant and the "sano swar mujur"(peacock
with the small voice). The list of protected reptiles
include: the python,"sungohari" and the gharial.
After the establishments
of National Parks in Nepal a number of projects were started:
the Nepal Terai Ecology Project, the Snow Leopard Project,
the Barun Valley Project, the Annapurna Project, International
Workshops on the National Parks, Rhino translocation to
India, the Nepal National Conservation Strategy, the Gharial
Conservation project to name a few. The Smithsonian Institute
(USA) helped start the Nepal Tiger Ecology Project in
the 1974 and then decided to change the name of the project
to "Nepal Terai Ecology Project" and expand
the research activities "beyond the tiger."
One can only hope that
the delicate balance between the Maoists and government
troops will be set aside, and the poaching will be curbed
in due time in one of the most beautiful National Parks
of the world. For Nepal’s National Parks are worth
a visit. The romantic sunsets, the cries of the wild in
the jungle nearby, the adventurous hotels and modern amenities
for the visitors from abroad, and the friendliness of
the Nepalese people from different ethnic backgrounds.
I still hear the frivolous melody Resam piriri played
by a Nepali boy in the Terai, Nepal’s lowland, and
it reminds me of the wonderful people I met during my
sojourn in my Himalayan country, be they Tharus, Rais,
Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs, Chettris and Bahuns or Newars.
I still see their smiling faces and their kind words,
despite the decade of hardships, terror and uncertainty.
I admire their inborn desire to survive all these human-made
obstacles and misery, and the hope and faith that they
have in the Gods and Goddesses of Kathmandu and Nepal
In diesem Sinne: Jai Nepal,
Waldmannsheil, Namaste from the Black Forest!