Kathmandu, Nepal – For the first time in Nepal, Wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee) locally known as Arna was successfully translocated from Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve to Chitwan National Park today.
On 25th January, 2017, a female wild water buffalo was captured using a tranquillizer gun and the next day a male was darted. The pair was translocated via truck to Chitwan National Park. This historic achievement will further gain momentum with plans to translocate additional 18 Wild Water Buffalos from Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve to Chitwan National Park.
“There were only 63 Wild Water Buffalo’s when Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was established in 1976,” stated Shant Raj Jnawali, Chief of Party, WWF Nepal, Hariyo Ban Program. He further added, “As the population has steadily grown in the last few decades, translocating them to their former range in Chitwan is a great option as it provides one of the best habitats within Nepal to create a second viable population other than Koshi Tappu.”
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is the only habitat of Wild Water Buffalo in Nepal and an estimated 432 individuals reside in the grasslands as per the count conducted in 2016. Being the only habitat, the species are in constant threat of being extinct from Nepal if natural calamities such as flood, fire and epidemics were to occur within the habitat. Hence, the primary objective of the translocation was to establish a second ecologically viable population in Chitwan National Park, thus given them a fighting chance in case of natural calamities. Habitat loss, degradation and climate change induced disasters are other type of threats to the population.
“Extinction is not just an assumed threat as Wild Water Buffalo is believed to be extinct in Bangladesh, Peninsular Malaysia, and on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Borneo,” stated Ghana Shyam Gurung, Senior Conservation Program Director, WWF Nepal. “Nepal has the second highest population in the world and conservation of Wild Water Buffalo is as important as other major species like Rhino, Tigers and Snow leopards.”
The translocation will also help to provide a sustainable conservation plan for Arna. In addition, the local stakeholders from and around Chitwan National Park will benefit with promotion of eco-tourism in relation to Wild Water Buffalo.
The translocation, which involved a team of about 60 people including 3 veterinarians and 12 wildlife technicians, was led by Nepal government’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation – DNPWC with support from WWF Nepal; USAID supported Hariyo Ban Program; National Trust for Nature Conservation, Biodiversity Conservation Centre and Zoological Society of London (Nepal). Individuals from Chitwan National Park and Koshi Tapu Wildlife Reserve were also mobilized.
The preparation for the capture and release had started from 11th December, 2016. Preparations included setting up an enclosure of 30 hectares and strengthening it with solar powered fence, and habitat management. Additionally, 2 wooden cages were prepared for post capture operations and regular local level meeting with concerned stakeholders and community were conducted before the capture and release.